The Walrus, set to begin publication in October, is intended to change “a simple truth” enunciated by a royal commission more than half a century ago: that there is no Canadian equivalent of The Atlantic, Harper’s, or The New Yorker.
Virginia Rounding’s Grandes Horizontales is called a “portrait of four scheming 19th-century courtesans who were the subjects of enough colorful first- and secondhand stories to inspire an impressive number of artists and writers of the day” in a review by Daphne Merkin. (Merkin’s name in this context rather unfortunately calls to mind a traditional tool of the trade.)
Yes, I know it’s overkill with the Lethem linkage already, but it’s worth noting that you can test drive the first chapter of The Fortress of Solitude online. A link to an audio reading is available on the same page.
The Old Hag considers a review of Tim Gautreaux’s latest novel, and says, “Robert Wilson’s dull precis gives you every reason to avoid The Clearing, but by all means, do not judge a book by its reviewer.”
The meaningful details in The Clearing came out of my imagination supported by thousands of bits and pieces of things I heard as a child: a reference to a long dead relative, an old firearm in the closet purported to have killed someone, an embarrassed turn of the head, a helpless shrug, the way an uncle slowed down his voice when speaking two sentences about what he did in the war.
One thing that makes a child turn into a writer the ability to understand the importance of remembering everything. And to remember you have to listen and believe that everything you hear is interesting.
The Chicago Tribune books section is all about California this weekend. Cris Mazza’s collection of autobiographical essays, Indigenous: Growing Up Californian, gets a glowing review, and Michael Gorra responds favorably to Didion’s Where I Was From. “A selection of books from the California canon” is provided.
Ali Smith enjoyed Chuck Palahniuk’s latest novel:
His target is the fake surface of things, and Diary is a book that sometimes does get under the skin, a satisfying enough piece of emergency surgery, though its spiralling plot demands a mighty suspension of disbelief even for a Palahniuk book. Still, this is the kind of harum-scarum theatrical that he does best; incantatory, festishistic, sledgehammer-witty, an acrid take on the old conspiracy of rich versus poor and a high-speed speculation about how we live, how we die and what we leave behind.
Jason Burke says a collection of Salam Pax’s blog entries is a “funny, heartening, distressing and important book.”
A profile of Jonathan Raban focuses on the author’s writing and his decision to move from England to the U.S.:
Susannah Clapp, the writer and theatre critic, who has known Raban since his days in literary London, associates him with “hat, pipe, loping gait, red wine, waterfall of talk – mainly literary talk, and mainly about the work rather than the people. Looking back, neither the going to America nor the choice of country seems surprising. His subject was always really being a foreigner – whether the alien was him or someone else.” The novelist and travel writer Paul Theroux feels that, “while America hasn’t changed him, it’s given him a wider perspective and an enlarged sympathy. Jonathan is still very English, but the term ‘English writer’ doesn’t describe him. He takes very big gambles. He’ll go off, spend money, then begin a book and abandon it. He’s very exacting with himself. I travel just to get out of the house. But Jonathan always has something in mind, something he’s setting out to discover, to prove.” Theroux says he has known Raban “my whole writing life, and he is probably the only person I would send my work to before publishing it”.
Salon has posted the first chapter of Tom Bissell’s new nonfiction release, Chasing the Sea. I haven’t read it yet, but if you enjoy the chapter you can stop by the KGB Bar on Tuesday night to see Bissell read an excerpt.