Our Critic’s Tip Sheet On Current Reading: Week of June 11th, 2007

In the summer fiction issue of The New Yorker (June 11 and 18, $4.95), D.T. Max profiles Tom Staley, the director of a vast and growing literary archive at the University of Texas at Austin. Offered the opportunity to browse through the collection, Mr. Max chooses to poke around in the 125 cartons containing Don DeLillo’s drafts, correspondence, etc. As an example of the archive’s treasures, he fishes out a letter Mr. DeLillo wrote to David Foster Wallace in 1995. Mr. Wallace had asked for a “pep-talk”; what he got was a glimpse of a life dedicated to the “rigors of novel-writing”: “ … [E]ventually discipline no longer seemed something outside me that urged the reluctant body into the room. At this point discipline is inseparable from what I do. It’s not even definable as discipline. It has no name. I never think about it. But there’s no trick of meditation or self-mastery that brought it about. I got older, that’s all. I was not a born novelist (if anyone is). I had to grow into novelhood.”

Did you know that Hamlet has been translated into Klingon? That Stratford-on-Avon is the second-most-visited town in England, after London, with four million literary tourists every year? (That’s like everybody in Manhattan going over there twice a year and bringing along some friends from Brooklyn.) For more fun facts about how the man who was born and buried in Stratford became—posthumously, prodigiously—the Bard, see Jack Lynch’s Becoming Shakespeare (Walker, $24.95).

A milestone for a local lad: Pete Hamill’s new novel, North River (Little, Brown, $25.99), a love story set in New York during the Depression, about the sweet balm of second chances, is his 20th book.