1976 -- JR

I feel like part of the vanishing breed that thinks a writer should be read and not heard, let alone seen. I think this is because there seems so often today to be a tendency to put the person in the place of his or her work, to turn the creative artist into a performing one, to find what a writer says about writing somehow more valid, or more real, than the writing itself.
Although his reclusive behavior did not quite reach the Pynchon level, William Gaddis gave few interviews and left so little personal material behind that, twelve years after his death, no full-length biography has appeared. The comments above, from Gaddis’s 1976 NBA acceptance speech, add an unfortunate level of irony to the missing author portrait, for his novels have all but disappeared along with him. Although too long, difficult and postmodern to ever be a popular success, they have enjoyed significant critical praise — more recently from Jonathan Franzen, his essay titled, “Mr. Difficult: William Gaddis and the Problem of Hard-to-Read Books.” But a quarter-century has passed since Cynthia Ozick judged Gaddis’s The Recognitions “the most overlooked important work of the last several literary generations,” and he remains, in her words, “famous for not being famous enough.”

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

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
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).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.

Landline

What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.