Patrick deWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers (which our own Mark O’Connell reviewed last October), expected Harry Mathews’ novel The Journalist to be a “terrible flop,” but soon found it was “every bit as great as Mathews’ more celebrated novels.”
"On my manhood rests a tattooed / portrait of Mr. President. / My beloved found that out after we wed. / She was utterly gutted, / Inconsolable." Poet Maung Saungkha may have to prove in a Myanmar courtroom that he doesn't have a tattoo of the nation's president on his genitals.
Historian Robert A. Caro, author of The Power Broker, has spent 35 years researching and writing about the life and presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. Last Tuesday, devoted fans were thrilled to learn that the fourth book in his LBJ saga is due out in May. It will be entitled The Passage of Power, and it will focus on the years between 1958 and 1964.
"Writing difference is a challenge, particularly in fiction. How do men write women and vice versa? How do writers of one race or ethnicity write about people of another race or ethnicity? More important, how do writers tackle difference without reducing their characters to caricatures or stereotypes?" Roxane Gay reviews Joyce Carol Oates's The Sacrifice and simultaneously explains how to write difference well. Hint: it "demands empathy, an ability to respect the humanity of those you mean to represent."
The LA Times has a review up of Eula Biss's On Immunity: An Innoculation, an "elegant, intelligent and very beautiful book, which occupies a space between research and reflection." We covered the collection in our Second-Half 2014 Book Preview, and Biss's first book, Notes from No Man's Land, has appeared in several Millions pieces over the last few years.
Recently, both Batgirl and the Norse god Thor (as conceived by Marvel) have been updated to suit the times. While DC Comics simply gave Batgirl sensible, combat-appropriate clothing, inspiring happy fan art; "female Thor" has met a mix of excitement and bewilderment. Fittingly, a new piece out at Aeon explores our conflicted desire to see male protagonists in fiction -- the Harry Potters and Bilbo Baggins' of the world -- reimagined as women. (Also, because no roundup of imaginary characters is complete without fake social media updates, here's Thor lamenting the loss of his hammer on Facebook.)