Remainders

  • Acknowledging the paradox of literary biographies — that generally it’s the most devoted readers who will seek out a biography of an author, but that these are the very readers who’ll cry foul when the biographer tries to attribute the author’s unique point of view and stylistic tics to, for instance, an Electra complex — David Foster Wallace reviews Edwin Williamson’s Borges: A Life.
  • Meanwhile, Mark Sarvas of The Elegant Variation reports on a Wallace reading in L.A. Like me, Sarvas is annoyed by Wallace’s fiction, but he finds the Infinite Jest author is a charming reader.
  • Last week the Orthodox Church expressed outrage over a film of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. The church characterized the book as a “a kind of fifth . . . gospel narrated by Satan” and fretted that it might “confuse believers.”
  • A playwright imagines that Donald Barthelme was behind an actual attack on Dan Rather during which assailants repeatedly asked the newscaster, “Kenneth, what is the frequency?”
  • The New York Times covers my hometown book fair. In a post about the fair this weekend, I forgot to mention that Esmerelda Santiago is slated to read.
  • Distracted by last week’s post-election suicidal impulses and subsequent rage, I missed Dan Cryer’s excellent Newsday piece on the continued relevance of Graham Greene. A Smith College professor reports that his students:

    initially are unaware of Greene or don’t know where to place him. He falls into cracks in the curriculum, between the historical canon and contemporary fiction.

    But once they discover “The End of the Affair,” Gorra says, their enthusiasm is sky-high.

    “They like the passion. Not the descriptions of sex, but something you can stake your life on. In the same way they like ‘Wuthering Heights.'”

    (Thanks to George at Bookninja.)


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