• across the desk

Snowbound Reading

It's another snow-buried day in the Northeast. And hence that brings to mind some snowy reading. Tove Jannson's The True Deceiver, newly available in English, is the story of a snowbound Scandinavian village and two women -- one an outcast, one a respected citizen, whose paths cross with disturbing results. Jannson is best known for her Moomintroll stories for children (and her Moominland in Midwinter is another perfect snow-day read, about what happens when a Moomin wakes up accidentally from his family's annual hibernation), but later wrote a number of psychologically acute, brilliantly compact novels for adults.

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  • across the desk

Jules Feiffer's Unlearning

We are looking forward with pleasure to taking more than a moment's time with Backing into Forward, the memoir from longtime Village Voice cartoonist Jules Feiffer, which publishes officially next month. A passage chosen not quite at random:

'Lincoln Steffens, the great muckraker, had taught me an unforgettable insight when I read his autobiography in my early twenties. Steffens's first job in journalism was as a cub reporter on a New York daily. He was just back from a classical European education, thought he knew everything, and after a month on the job discovered that everything he thought he knew, everything he'd been taught, was wrong. The assignment he took upon himself was to "unlearn."' Read more...

  • across the desk

"It All Went In"

Conversations with Kingsley Amis, new from the University Press of Mississippi, is a welcome reminder of why there's more to Amis's impact than Lucky Jim -- as delightful as that novel is. Nearly all of the interviews and exchanges collected produce surprises. Here's Amis on literary fiction in the 1960s, and what he saw it as missing out on: "One of the interesting things is that the child and adolescent parts of the reader of serious fiction aren't being catered to, as they were catered to by serious novelists a hundred or more years ago. Dickens, for example, got a lot of child and adolescent into his books....trying to horrify you, trying to thrill you, trying to make you feel afraid, trying to divert you even at the most superficial level. One of the reasons why he's better than most of the people around is that the high-brow novel hadn't emerged yet. It all went in." (A more complete quotation follows after the jump.) Read more...

July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).