Via Electric Lit.
Not sure if this is more encouraging or daunting, but it’s definitely interesting!
Via Electric Lit.
Not sure if this is more encouraging or daunting, but it’s definitely interesting!
Today Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. Corrigan says the novel gives readers “the chance to step out of time for a while and into a world richer and stranger than most of us could imagine.”
She encourages readers to try The Bone Clocks, even if fantasy fiction isn’t your cup of tea:
"David Mitchell is one of those writers I’d follow anywhere—even deep into (what is for me) the often-exasperating genre of fantasy fiction. I don’t naturally gravitate to tales about alternative universes, wormholes, or tribbles; but, there are always exceptions and if Mitchell feels like trying out a semi-futuristic vehicle about immortal soul stealers, I’m willing to take a deep breath, step aboard, and say, in the words of Rod Serling: “Next stop, the Twilight Zone.”
As in Cloud Atlas and some of his lesser-known novels, Mitchell’s new book, called The Bone Clocks, is elaborately constructed, jumping around in time and narrative perspective. A friend of mine, who’s also a Mitchell enthusiast, rightly says that his novels are “postmodernist without all the pretentious metaphysics.” What my friend means is that Mitchell’s technical wizardry is there, not for show, but in service to his themes and characters—he’s a deeply compassionate writer. In fact, despite its experimental edge, the main reason to read The Bone Clocks is an old-fashioned one: the draw of a charismatic character named Holly Sykes.”
When The Great Gatsby was published in 1925, it flopped. In fact, it didn’t get its second wind until World War II when it was given to soldiers to carry in their pockets—over 123,000 copies were distributed.
Today we talk about the history of Gatsby and why it endures. Fresh Air’s book critic Maureen Corrigan just wrote a book about this very subject. It’s called “So We Read On,” a reference to the final words of Gatsby, “And So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
In the conversation, Corrigan tells us that Gatsby has quite a few film noir tropes:
"Gatsby almost has the form of a film noir, where you have this voiceover with [narrator] Nick Carraway remembering things that have taken place in the past, things that can’t be changed, events that can’t be changed.
It’s a violent story. There are three violent deaths in Gatsby. It’s a story in which you get bootlegging, crime, explicit sexuality — and remember this is 1925 when it was published, so it’s pretty racy for its time.
… We don’t explicitly read about [sex] but in Chapter Two, Nick is taken along by Tom Buchanan … on a joy ride into Manhattan where Tom takes Nick to … a drunken party in The Love Nest. So we know that there’s infidelity — a lot of innuendo — about people having sex outside of marriage and a lot of drinking.
And, most importantly, film noir, hardboiled detective fiction and The Great Gatsby — they’re all stories that are obsessed with the presence of fate. There’s a very fated feel to Gatsby. Events that occur in the novel, they’re foretold many times. That car crash in which Myrtle Wilson is killed, Tom’s mistress, there are two other car crashes that preceded that car crash. So a lot of events are predicted in this novel.”
Photo: Benn Mitchell
"The Hunger Games," "Catching Fire," and "Mockingjay" by Suzanne Collins
New York Times correspondent Charlie Savage spoke to Fresh Air about the state of Guantanamo Bay, the efforts to move the remaining detainees and the political obstacles to closing the facility.
Savage also started a tumblr of books in the Gitmo library. “People seem to really be taken with it,” he says. “Because it’s so familiar and yet so alien at the same time to see these books that we’ve read or might be on your kid’s shelf—except it’s circulating among detainees at Guantanamo Bay.”
Here’s what Savage says about the library:
"It has about 20,000 books. …The detainees can’t go there and browse the stacks. Instead, library personnel puts a bunch of books in bins and cart them around to the cell blocks. …
The most popular books are said to be religious books, maybe not surprisingly, but they have a whole room full of western books that you or I would be quite familiar with—ranging from Captain America comic books to The Hunger Games, or the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. …
Apparently nature books and nature magazines with photographs [of] ocean or mountain or forest scenes are quite popular, maybe because they never see nature.”
The Art of Dog-Earing: Yes, Terry Reads The Books
Books always had this very powerful effect on me because of some communication, somebody seeming even in a very symbolic or displaced way to understand what I was feeling. And I think that is the miracle of literature, is this private communication between one intelligence and another.
Last week, Africa Is a Country, a blog that documents and skewers Western misconceptions of Africa, ran a fascinating story about book design. It posted a collage of 36 covers of books that were either set in Africa or written by African writers. The texts of the books were as diverse as the geography they covered: Nigeria, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique. They were written in wildly divergent styles, by writers that included several Nobel Prize winners. Yet all of books’ covers featured an acacia tree, an orange sunset over the veld, or both.
"In short," the post said, "the covers of most novels ‘about Africa’ seem to have been designed by someone whose principal idea of the continent comes from The Lion King.”
Read more.[Image: Wikimedia Commons]
"All of these books are about how to become free: how to become free of your conditioning; how to become free of resentment and hatred and the weight of the past. So Patrick is on the case. He may often be very unhappy or self-destructive or confused or say things that are sarcastic, but his whole direction is towards freedom, which he eventually achieves."
—- Author Edward St. Aubyn talks with Terry Gross about his Patrick Melrose novels, which are semi-autobiographical and follow the life of an upper-class Englishman from an abusive childhood to heroin addiction to recovery
Photo by Timothy Allen/Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Imagine an America that has been plagued for years by a mysterious epidemic of insomnia — an affliction so serious that many are dying from lack of sleep. That’s the futuristic premise of Karen Russell's new novella, Sleep Donation. Insomniacs can file for dream bankruptcy and receive sleep donations, even from babies. In the interview with Russell she explains why babies are the ideal donor candidates:
"In our America, most people would agree that an infant doesn’t have the capacity to make a legal gift, but I think the crisis is so severe [that they use babies]. … In my own sleep-deprived state, like, of course everyone wants baby sleep. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? It would be completely uncorrupted by adult nightmares. It would just be some pure black flow from whatever void a baby came from very recently — that kind of deep, pure unconsciousness …
The narrator of the novella discovers accidentally a universal donor; nobody knew that such a thing existed. I was thinking about the horror and the pain and the arbitrary way it seems that some bodies can’t receive transfusions or organ donations; that there’s some kind of congenital suspicion, there’s an immune response, and you [can’t] assimilate this gift. And here’s this tiny [baby and] everyone is elated to discover that she’s a match with every donee. Any insomniac can receive her dreams and sleep. … It’s a silver bullet, that she has this curative property.”
"Let’s get the negative stuff out of the way first. Teju Cole’s Every Day Is For the Thief is not much of a novel. Forget plot or character development: This is a piece of writing that’s all about setting. If you take what Cole is offering here and value it on its own terms, you’ll probably appreciate the curious magic at work in this slim not-quite-a-novel. In chapters that stand as separate, short vignettes, Every Day Is For The Thief describes a young New York doctor’s visit back to his hometown of Lagos, Nigeria. It’s a Clockwork Orange world where policemen routinely stop traffic to collect bribes, where the electricity sputters out at nightly intervals and where 11-year-old thieves are necklaced with kerosene-soaked tires and burned to death. Amidst all the corruption and misery, Cole also makes readers understand the narrator’s longing for a Nigeria he thinks he remembers from childhood.”
Photo via Teju Cole
Author Penelope Lively describes her latest book, Dancing Fish And Ammonites, as “not quite a memoir,” but rather “the view from old age,” a subject she says she can report on with some authority — Monday is the British writer’s 81st birthday.
After her husband’s death, she was forced to sift through all of their belongings. The one thing she couldn’t bear to let go of was her collection of books. In the interview, she tells us why:
"They chart my life. I don’t want to sound ponderous, but they chart my intellectual life. They chart everything that I’ve been interested in and thought about for the whole of my reading life. So if they went I would, in a sense, lose a sense of identity. They identify me. … Most of them I shall never read again, but you never know what you may want to go back to. And it does constantly happen to me that there’s something that I suddenly think, "Oh, I’ve got that book, let me just look that up." I do it every day."
In his novel, The Testament of Mary, Irish writer Colm Toíbín imagines Mary’s life 20 years after the crucifixion. She is struggling to understand why some people believe Jesus is the son of God, and weighed down by the guilt she feels wondering what she might have done differently to alter — or ease — her son’s fate.
Imagining such violent events as the crucifixion, he says, “is really, really serious work. In other words, you have to go in and pretend … it’s happening now and go into absolute detail, so you’re almost working in the same way maybe a painter is working … [except] that it’s occurring word by word, sentence by sentence.”
You can hear Toíbín’s full interview here
The novel is now out in paperback.
image: Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin in Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice. Photograph: Mauro Magliani/Alinari Archives/Corbis via guardian
"Kill a tree! Save a book!"
Our #TBT is dedicated to Carrie Brownstein, wunderhost of our 2013 5 Under 35 Celebration last November. (Awesome party photos here.) Carrie’s hit series Portlandia returns tonight on IFC. As a warm up to its premiere, watch Carrie share her alt-reality vision of our 5 Under 35 selection process.
“Since when did trees have it so good?”
For good measure: Here’s our interview with Carrie and Fred
Tomorrow author Ann Patchett speaks to Fresh Air about marriage, divorce, death, and her love of books.
"I’m never lonely when I’m around books. It’s the world of endless possibility and opportunity to be in that building full of books that can come home with me."
Patchett’s latest collection of stories is called This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage. Our book critic Maureen Corrigan reviewed it back in November.
image of Patchett in her bookstore “Parnassus” (Nashville, TN) via CNN