There are all kinds of arguments for reading the canon (Italo Calvino‘s come to mind) but why should we spend time reading untested contemporary authors? Tim Parks tackles this question, with a little help from Virginia Woolf, for The New York Review of Book‘s blog, and his argument pairs well with Guy Patrick Cunningham‘s Millions essay on reading the classics.
Out this week is a highly touted seafaring debut We the Drowned. This book in translation is by Danish writer Carsten Jensen. Another debut effort arriving this week is Open City by Teju Cole, which PW likened to Coetzee, Sebald, and Nicholson Baker. Out in paperback today are Adam Haslett's Union Atlantic and controversial Millions Hall of Famer Reality Hunger by David Shields.
"Save one life save the world, instructs the Talmud... You can’t save every life. You can’t save every book. But you can at least throw lifelines now and then." Susan Coll writes for The Atlantic about the power of shelving and the importance of staying hopeful, no matter how gloomy publishing becomes.
There’s an old story that states that Marcel Proust met James Joyce for five unremarkable minutes at a dinner party. Artistically significant though it may have been, it had less geopolitical significance than another famous meeting a hundred years earlier, in which Napoleon went out of his way to pay a visit to Goethe. As a new biography of the French emperor details, Napoleon couldn’t understand why Goethe admired Shakespeare.
In Florida, legislators are wondering whether or not they should raise tuition costs for students studying the humanities, or really anything other than STEM fields. Likewise, James Dyson (yes, the vacuum guy) bemoans Britain's abundance of "students choosing to read humanities at university." As a rejoinder, one New Statesman blogger notes that the study of humanities does not inhibit technological innovation, and that as a bonus, "we gain from having people who reshape our cultural landscape and put things in new contexts."
Along with D.T. Max, Laura Miller, and Jason Kottke, I'll be participating in this week's discussion of Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace over at New York Magazine.