Colin Dickey for Hazlitt has written a fascinating essay exploring the myth and superstition behind the ritual veiling of mirrors while in mourning. Did our own Sonya Chung cover her mirror while she mourned the passing of Mad Men?
The Great Gatsby debuted in 1925 to poor sales and mediocre reviews. So how did it become one of the most famous novels in America? At Slate, Cristina Hartmann explains how Fitzgerald’s opus, which netted the author royalties worth a grand total of $13 in his lifetime, went on to become a classic. Related: our own Bill Morris on a book about the novel by Sarah Churchwell. (h/t The Paris Review Daily)
“When we read a book that requires that effort — when the act of reading becomes rigorous and self-aware, rather than effortless and transparent — we get to have a history with what we’ve given ourselves to, a history etched into us by the demanding friction of its difficulty.” Zoë Heller and Leslie Jamison debate whether or not we overvalue difficult literature in The New York Times.
Allan Gurganus commemorates the 100th anniversary of his teacher and friend John Cheever’s birth. “Cheever, now unfairly known as the gloomy, sodden satyr of suburbia,” Gurganus writes, “was at least rarely gloomy. Fact is he was more fun per minute than is legal in a nation this Republican.”
In what reads like someone’s answer to the “who would you invite to a literary dinner party" question, novelists Jeanette Winterson and Marlon James sat down for a fantastic conversation at a Miami hotel bar. James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings won the Man Booker prize earlier this year.