How often the cruelest critiques come from friends. It was certainly true for Stefan Zweig. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Austrian Jewish writer was one of the world’s best-selling authors. His novellas and story collections broke sales records in Germany the week of their publications. Biographies tumbled from his pen. He made Robert Musil Read More
In a perfect world–you know, the one where we don’t spend all day analyzing our feelings about exactly why it’s so disgusting to offer $10,000 for certain un-touched photos of a certain someone’s certain magazine shoot–our bookshelves would be filled with the kind of diversity not found on a certain someone’s TV show.
But it’s not, so we have to take what we can get: A female-dominated list of top fiction/non-fiction books checked out of the New York Public Library, where five of the entries are comprised of E.L. James (two books), Danielle Steel (ditto) and Sheryl Sandberg. Read More
In an interview with Salon two years ago, when his novel The Flame Alphabet was published, Ben Marcus offered a convincing argument for the absolution of some of his responsibility for his effect on readers—and perhaps, by extension, that of all writers who deal in emotional landscapes as bleak as his own. “Sometimes something horrifying … is queasily funny for some people and just plain upsetting to others,” he said. “I’m not interested in, or capable of, regulating this.”
Fair enough! If Mr. Marcus were more concerned about appeasing the fainthearted literary escapist, most of the 15 stories in his new collection, Leaving the Sea, would have to end midway through their first paragraphs. At least one, “Watching Mysteries with My Mother,” would debatably have to end after its Camus-inverting first sentence—“I don’t think my mother will die today”—and if not then, probably after what follows: “It’s late at night already.”
In America, Immigrant Memoir Writes You! Gary Shteyngart, Reckoning With Soviet Russia, Becomes Anxiety-Ridden New Yorker in ‘Little Failure’
“The past is haunting us,” Gary Shteyngart writes in his new memoir, the ironically titled Little Failure (Random House, 368 pp., $27). I’ll take this as a cue to turn to Mr. Shteyngart’s first published words, the ones that introduced him to a reading public by way of his alter ego, Vladimir Girshkin, protagonist of his 2002 novel, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook: “The story of Vladimir Girshkin—part P.T. Barnum, part V.I. Lenin, the man who would conquer half of Europe (albeit the wrong half)—begins the way so many other things begin.” Read More
My favorite book of 2013 was first published in 1976. It is a gift to see the return of Renata Adler’s Speedboat, which was brought back into print this year Ms. Adler’s ramblings could be seen in a number of books I admired this year. Tao Lin’s novel Taipei follows a writer through his but Read More
Recently I was sitting with a friend in her lovely home before a fire, drinking some bourbon, and shooting the shit. She is, among other things, a white girl. We were talking about the schools nearby and I had questions about them not because I was particularly interested but because I felt obligated to appear so, because she had kids and part of being a friend is meeting people halfway, right? So I was asking things: Is it diverse? What are the kids like? Do you like the parents?
When I was much younger, a scene like this would have been the norm because I was brought up with all sorts of people. and many of them, if the not the majority of them, were white girls. But somehow, as I got older, despite the mooring of our similar backgrounds I, like many of the women I know, found myself increasingly in the company of girls who were mixed race, or brown and black like me unless I made a pointed effort to make it otherwise. Even still, I was taken aback when my friend that night asked me why in the world would I ask her if her kid’s school was diverse. She was smiling, and her eyes were reflecting the dim light of the fire but she seemed distressed. Why, she wanted to know, would something like that matter to me at all? Didn’t I know she didn’t think of the world that way, didn’t I know she didn’t see me as black? To her I was no race at all, just a person, just a person like everybody else. And didn’t I know she didn’t think about these things, she told me, because she was busy thinking about building her world, and all the small but wonderful ways it was good and all of the ways it could stay that way?
In May 2011, Daniel Menaker posted eight of the rejection letters he received for his memoir, My Mistake, on the Huffington Post.
“If you’re curious about this kind of thing—what goes on inside the submission process of publishing—there follow, a few paragraphs down, eight edited examples of the rejection notes I got, through my agent, for 25,000 words of a memoir,” wrote the former editor for The New Yorker and editor in chief of Random House. Read More
Mike Tyson with Larry Sloman
(Blue Rider Press, 592 pp., $30)
With the more colorful moments of Mike Tyson’s life now thoroughly documented in the minds of the American public, this is a book that should simply be quoted at length because it is absolutely bonkers. From Mr. Tyson’s epilogue:
“These days I Read More
At some point in the not-too-distant past, Arthur Kane and Steven Patrick Morrissey were sitting in Mel’s Drive-In on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. Mr. Kane is best known as the bass guitarist for the New York Dolls, 1970s pioneers of rock ’n’ roll transvestism who provided former Smiths front man Morrissey with a formative sexual experience: “Jerry Nolan on the front of the Dolls debut album is the first woman I ever fell in love with; the hussy-slut positioning of the legs is Playmate call girl, and the pink drum kit just might be a rock ’n’ roll first.”
Decades later, in Mel’s Drive-In, the roles are reversed. As Morrissey recalls, Mr. Kane asked him for a ride “to a few job interviews this week,” which Morrissey declined to grant. “Arthur tells me that he has been asked to write the music for an upcoming film called Josie and the Pussycats,” Morrissey writes. “It’s the kind of taradiddle you will hear nonstop in Los Angeles. If people only spoke of what they had done as opposed to what they were about to do, it would be the most silent city on the face of the Earth.” Morrissey’s Autobiography attests to the fact that he has accomplished much in his 54 years. Poetically crafted though the book may be, Morrissey, playfully nicknamed the Pope of Mope by the British press, has written a hefty self-apologia no less petty than the supposed “taradiddle” of his fellow Angelenos. Read More