• 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.

Read more...

  • 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...

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.