Remainders

  • Jonathan Coe has at long last (okay, so it’s only been three-and-a-half years, but they’ve been long years) delivered on his promise to write a sequel to The Rotter’s Club. He talks about the new novel, The Closed Circle, which picks up the Rotter’s Club characters 20 years later, at the Guardian. Among other things, the new book reportedly satirizes “the weirdness of New Labor.”
  • According to a collection of essays by scholars, the existing English translation of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex “is so badly botched that it distorts Beauvoir’s intent and presents her as an incoherent thinker.”
  • In 1913, Virginia Woolf compared Jane Austen to Shakespeare. Washington Post writer Jennifer Frey contends that Austen’s name developed “Shakespearean currency” only after the wave of 1990’s films adapting her books. Now “chick lit” authors see Austen as their progenitor, but Frey says:

    To categorize Austen as simply a writer of romantic fiction is foolish. Austen is cynical where most romance is hopeful; her characters are often deeply flawed. Her world may be, on the surface, one of cottages and vast lawns and graceful flowers, but it is really an interior world, one she renders, unsparingly, with a masterful level of social observation.

  • Speaking of the Bard, although it’s long been heresy in England to suggest “that Shakespeare was someone other than the venerated Stratford-on-Avon native,” the debate over the playwright’s identity is finally being considered “at Shakespeare’s Globe, that nucleus of Shakespeare performance and education in London modeled on the renowned theater where the author’s plays were produced and performed in his lifetime.”
  • Also, according to a poll of Royal Shakespeare Company’s actors, “Hamlet” is Shakespeare’s finest play, followed by “King Lear” and “Antony and Cleopatra.”
  • Slate’s David Edelstein admires Bright Young Things, the screen adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, while Charles McGrath says that that the film is, on paper, a faithful adaptation of the book, but has a staid, Masterpiece Theater tone that clouds the novel’s sharp, brilliant satire. Whatever your take on the film or the book, if you missed The Splendidiser when I first linked to it, be sure to check it out.
  • Despite raves from trustworthy quarters, I’ve yet to read David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. The critical response has been almost uniformly positive. Jeff Turrentine (Washington Post staffer-to-be) joins the chorus in the weekend’s Book World. He also conducts a brief interview with Mitchell (scroll below the review), in which the author reveals that Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler served as an inspiration for the current novel. Mitchell wrote an interesting essay earlier this year about returning to the Calvino book he’d adored as a young man.
  • Robert McCrum argues, quite sensibly, that the critical “hoo-hah about overproduction” (in the U.S., a book is published approximately every 20 seconds) fails to consider that in the end, over the long term, the “Common Reader” will always choose Toni Morrison over Plum Sykes.
  • Lizzie Skurnick reviews Justin Cronin’s The Summer Guest, calling it “a lyric chronicle ably spanning the distance between the gravitas of domestic heavyweights like Updike and Cheever and the studied, interwoven plotting of most book-club picks, without falling into the traps of either.”
  • Louis de Bernieres (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin) lost a chunk of his new novel when thieves stole his laptop.
  • Hanif Kureishi reflects on his discovery of an unpublished novel his father had written years before.
  • From Why Not Be a Writer?:

    You’ll send novels, articles, and, in eventual desperation, even your diary, to countless editors, agents and magazines. They’ll all come back, and you’ll learn to treasure your rejection slips — because they’ll have become your only contact with the outside world (Via Hoplit.)


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