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  • “The real world is massive and chaotic beyond the scope of any story, but the novel has always been the storytelling medium that could come closest to capturing it. And the novels that dared to really try – from Hugo to Tolstoy – are often the ones that have endured.” That’s not to say, of course, that bigger is always better, and in an article for The Guardian Damien Walter argues against the current glut of epic, serialized fantasy novels taking their cues from George R.R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire. As Walter puts it, “There are great fantasy short stories, novellas and single novels that deserve much wider audiences, but are sidelined by the industry’s unhealthy fixation with the serial format. It’s time for the fantasy genre to tell some new – shorter – stories.”


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    ~Kaulie Lewis
  • Recommended reading: Alexander Chee‘s essay “Against Wunderkinds.”


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    ~Kaulie Lewis
  • “I’ve come to understand that I’ll rarely experience that first rush of discovery again, and perhaps that’s the problem with re-reading. It reminds us both of where we’ve been and where we can’t go again.” Sarah Seltzer wonders why do we reread books as children but not as adults? Pair with Lisa Levy‘s essay on “The Pleasures and Perils of Rereading.”


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    ~Kaulie Lewis
  • Earlier this month, I wrote about Louis Menand’s recent New Yorker piece about The Life of Saul Bellow, a new biography of the Nobel laureate by Zachary Leader. Now, in the LRB, Andrew O’Hagan reads the book. Sample quote: “Bellow’s community was his subject and his subject was his voice.”


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    ~Thomas Beckwith
  • Recommended Reading: Millions contributor Shaj Mathew on avant-garde fiction.


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    ~Thomas Beckwith
  • For Perry Link, it was embarrassing to read Eileen Chang for the first time, because her work revealed things about China it took him too long to learn on his own. In The New York Review of Books, he writes about how Naked Earth, which the magazine’s publishing arm is republishing in June, cut through the jargon of Chairman Mao’s regime. FYI, Jamie Fisher wrote an essay on the book for The Millions.


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    ~Thomas Beckwith
  • “Genius” is a loaded term. Its application usually says more about the person making the judgment than it does about the genius in question. In The Guardian, Sophie Hannah argues that the term isn’t used enough to describe one writer in particular: Agatha Christie. You could also read Daniel Friedman on the terrible secret of all crime fiction.


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    ~Thomas Beckwith
  • The Man Booker International prize was just awarded to Hungarian author László Krasznahorkai, author of Satantango (later adapted for film by Béla Tarr) and Seiobo There Below. When asked to recommend a starting point for readers who have yet to encounter his work, the author defers: “I couldn’t recommend anything … instead, I’d advise them to go out, sit down somewhere, perhaps by the side of a brook, with nothing to do, nothing to think about, just remaining in silence like stones. They will eventually meet someone who has already read my books.” Well, if a stream isn’t handy, we have a few ideas: our own interview with Krasznahorkai,  Stephanie Newman’s review of Seiobo There Below, and Music and Literature’s issue no. 2, featuring literature on and by Krasznahorkai and Béla Tarr.


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    ~Anne K. Yoder
  • This will either make or ruin your Tuesday: a clip of Orson Welles, in 1974, reminiscing about his relationship with Hemingway. As Sadie Stein writes, “it has everything: titanic ego-clashing, disingenuous concern-trolling, bullfighting, damning with faint praise, posthumous character assassination.” You could also read Jessica Roake on Peter Biskind’s My Lunches with Orson.


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    ~Thomas Beckwith
  • “An ambidextrous cardsharp, who took losing as a personal insult; a proletarian agitator, who dressed like a dandy; a germ-fearing hypochondriac, smoking 100 cigarettes a day; a lady-killer with rotten teeth, causing a string of abortions wherever he went.” On the Soviet poet Mayakovksy.


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    ~Thomas Beckwith
  • There’s a certain narrative voice with an unspoken aim to exonerate the speaker from wrongdoing. It occurs in novels, though it’s most common in monologues, especially those which take up the entirety of a play. At Bookforum, Lurid and Cute author Adam Thirlwell lists a number of examples, including Hunger by Knut Hamsun and Wars I Have Seen by Gertrude Stein.


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    ~Thomas Beckwith
  • Few people have a stranger life story than Jillian Lauren. A former party girl of a royal harem in Brunei, she overcame a heroin addiction to become, among other things, a writer with two memoirs to her name. At The Nervous Breakdown, she talks about her latest book, her religious faith and her adopted Ethiopian son.


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    ~Thomas Beckwith