- Laurie Muchnick, editor of Newsday‘s excellent books section (sure, say I’m biased, but I’ve always admired it), launches a column devoted to new books that catch her eye, and to publishing developments, book award disputes and the like. Thanks for the shout-out, Laurie.
- The Guardian prints Donna Tartt’s smart introduction to the U.K. reprint of Charles Portis’ True Grit. Tartt says the book captivated not only the likes Roald Dahl, but Tartt’s whole family — including her great-grandmother, her mother, her grandmother, and Tartt herself — and notes that Portis masterfully places the problem on deck right from the first paragraph, which reads:
People do not give it credence that a 14-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day. I was just 14 years of age when a coward going by the name of Tom Chaney shot my father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robbed him of his life and his horse and $150 in cash money plus two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band.
- Finally. One of those “upcoming books” articles mentions Rupert Thomson’s forthcoming Dividend Kingdom. (And Thomson is called “a mystifyingly underrated writer.” Amen to that.)
- Before her death, Susan Sontag placed Summer in Baden-Baden, a Soviet-era novel uncovered in a London bookshop, “among the most beautiful, exalting, and original achievements of a century’s worth of fiction and para-fiction.”
- For a review I’ve yet to digest, Marilynne Robinson argues that Adam Hochschild’s latest book reaches some facile conclusions about “empathy and law together championing justice” to end slavery.
- Scotsman on Sunday features an interview with young debut novelist Helen Oyeyemi, who “does not do happiness — ‘I don’t trust it,’ sighs the 20-year-old.” I’m looking forward to the Stateside appearance of her book.
- Writer Jonathan Ames talked with Claire Zulkey last week about filming the What’s Not to Love? pilot for Showtime:
I always try to take solace that the world needs clowns, and so that’s what I was doing: filming my clownish behavior, with the hope that I might, down the road if it airs, make a few people laugh. Granted it will be middle-class people with access to cable who will be doing the laughing, but they too need relief, which is what we often hear during elections.
- In a spirited defense of the new British Library — famously called “uglier than many a North Country crematorium” — Margaret Drabble acknowledges that her opinions are a little out of step with most:
Over the past months, many of the things I like have disappeared. My favourite restaurants close, and my favourite brands are discontinued. The media are eager to inform me that I am out of step. The only television channel that doesn’t tell me this is BBC4, and that’s because I am told nobody but me watches it. I like BBC4, which probably means it is doomed. Bad programmes drive out good, just as bad shops and bad restaurants drive out good, and sickly sweet orange flavoured vitamin tablets drive out plain.