The editors of The New York Times Book Review choose the best fiction and nonfiction titles this year.
“Detractors of new poetry make judgments about craft based on conservative assumptions about poetic traditions, forms, style. But radical aesthetics have their own craft and traditions, formed from intersecting political and linguistic concerns. So this isn’t a question of craft at all. Tremain and others might more accurately say that poetry is rapidly changing. And although it has always changed, recent new voices have radically altered the landscape of poetry – for some, beyond comfortable recognition. What no one dares to say aloud is who these new poets are and why they are such a threat to the supposed status quo.”
“The age of the sequel is over. Now it’s the age of the sequel to the sequel. Also the prequel, the reboot, the reunion, the revival, the remake, the spinoff and the stand-alone franchise-adjacent film. Canceled television shows are reinstated. Killed-off characters are resuscitated. Movies do not begin and end so much as they loiter onscreen. And social media is built for infinite scrolling. Nothing ends anymore, and it’s driving me insane.”
In With A Side of Knowledge, a podcast from the University of Notre Dame, Marilynne Robinson talks to Ted Fox about her novel Gilead, and shares her thoughts on faith, meaning, and the writing process.
“Jacques Derrida is widely regarded as the most important French philosopher of the late twentieth century. Yet when his name was put forward for an honorary degree at Cambridge University in 1992, a significant portion of the Anglo-American philosophical establishment was outraged. Eighteen philosophers from nine countries signed a letter to The Times opposing the award on the grounds that Derrida’s work consisted of “tricks and gimmicks similar to those of the Dadaists or of the concrete poets” and amounted to ‘little more than semi-intelligible attacks upon the values of reason, truth, and scholarship’. Understanding Derrida’s legacy, then, must also involve understanding why he should have been the target of such vitriol.”
— TLS (Subscription Access)
I really do think with my pen, for my head often knows nothing of what my hand is writing. MS 112 114:27.10.1931
Christianity is not a doctrine, not, I mean, a theory about what has happened & will happen to the human soul, but a description of something that actually takes place in human life. For ‘recognition of sin’ is an actual occurrence & so is despair & so is redemption through faith. Those who speak of it (like Bunyan), are simply describing what has happened to them; whatever gloss someone may want to put on it! MS 118 56r c: 4.9.1937
If I am thinking just for myself without wanting to write a book, I jump all around the topic; that is the only way of thinking that is natural to me. Forcing my thoughts into an ordered sequence is a torment for me. Should I even attempt it now??
I squander untold effort making an arrangement of my thoughts that may have no value whatsoever. MS 118 94v c: 15.9.1937
One cannot speak the truth; – if one has not yet conquered oneself. One cannot speak it – but not, because one is still not clever enough.
The truth can be spoken only by someone who is already at home in it; not by someone who still lives in untruthfulness, & does not more than reach out towards it from within untruthfulness. MS 162b 37r c: 1939-1940
Resting on your laurels is as dangerous as resting when hiking through snow. You doze off & die in your sleep. MS 162b 42v c: 1939-1940
Thoughts at peace. That is the goal someone who philosophizes longs for. MS 127 41v: 4.3.1944
Words are deeds. MS 179 27: ca. 1945
If people did not sometimes commit stupidities, nothing intelligent at all would ever happen. MS 131 219: 8.9.1946
“When I’m writing novels, reality and unreality just naturally get mixed together. It’s not as if that was my plan and I’m following it as I write, but the more I try to write about reality in a realistic way, the more the unreal world invariably emerges. For me, a novel is like a party. Anybody who wants to join in can join in, and those who wish to leave can do so whenever they want. I think novels get their driving force from that sense of freedom.”
“Samuel Beckett kept a copy of The Divine Comedy by his bedside as he lay dying in a Paris hospice in 1989. Oxygen canisters stood nearby for his emphysema but, immersed in Dante, he appeared to be ‘having fun’, remembered the poet Derek Mahon (who visited him a month before he died at the age of 83).”
The Guardian reviews Newcomer by Keigo Higashino, Still Lives by Maria Hummel, The Stranger Diaries by Ellie Griffiths, A House of Ghosts by WC Ryan, Five Days of Fog by Anna Freeman and The Long Shadow by Celia Fremlin.
“One of the most persistent myths in America today is that urban areas are innovative and rural areas are not. While it is overwhelmingly clear that innovation and creativity tend to cluster in a small number of cities and metropolitan areas, it’s a big mistake to think that they somehow skip over rural America.”
“Those who have experienced what shyness is know that it is a feeling which grows in direct proportion to delay, while one’s resolve decreases in inverse proportion. In other words, the longer the condition lasts, the more invincible does it become…”
— Leo Tolstoy, Childhood
“The New York Public Library is propelling classic literature to the forefront of technology with a series of Insta Novels — stories on Instagram intended to reach to a larger audience, especially young readers.”
“A spate of women-authored speculative fiction imagines detailed worlds of widespread infertility, criminalized abortion, and flipped power dynamics”
“‘You’re hearing about everything that dies, you’re not hearing about everything that’s still alive,’ she says. ‘If you think it’s dead already then you’re not going to be bothered. I almost think people gravitate towards “It’s too late,” because then they don’t have to put themselves out.’ And then, as if casually reminding me just why her fiction, that patient, painstaking evocation of worlds, makes sense as a response to an emergency, she says: ‘Only if you love something will you inconvenience yourself to work on its behalf.'”