But by the far the most influential contribution Eggers has made on the literary landscape is McSweeney’s, the so-called “Quarterly Concern” that has, for the last 15 years, produced some of the most original fiction and nonfiction out there, all packaged in some of the most beautiful and innovative book designs ever printed. Who is this young man? We didn’t know, but when it became clear what it was that he was doing, we all became very interested in his doings.
Recently, it seemed hard to find a book not blurbed by Gary Shteyngart. He did blurb 150 books in the past decade. Yet now the author has decided to mostly retire from blurbing, he announced in The New Yorker. “Literature can and will go on without my mass blurbing. Perhaps it may even improve.” Pair with: Our own Bill Morris’s essay on whether or not to blurb.
Recommended Viewing: Year in Reading alumna Rachel Fershleiser’s TED talk “Why I heart the Bookternet" on building reading communities through the internet. "The more tools that we get for communication and collaboration, the more we’re taking reading and writing — these really solitary pursuits — and building communities around them for connection and conversation."
What has changed in 450 years of performing, reading, writing Shakespeare? The history of women interacting with Shakespeare’s plays is also the history of women’s rights, suffrage, and of the feminist movement. It is a history of women being silenced and of finding ways to speak out anyway. Shakespeare has been, and is, an uneasy ally in this history. He complicates but also enriches our idea of what a woman is. Too often we are still Katherinas, forced to compromise our dignity in order to retain our voice, or else our insistence on speaking is blamed for our tragedies, like Juliet. But the reason why we still read Shakespeare’s women, is that they are women. Goneril, Juliet, and Katherina are finally not ciphers. Whatever else they may be, they are true women, and they have true voices.
Good fiction can be a form of good works. As a Catholic, I recognize that life is a story of continuous revision, of failure and unexpected grace, and of dogged hope. I am comfortable with the white space of ambiguity and mystery. I have faith, not certainty.
Tuesday New Release Day
Francine Prose has a new novel out this week, while Elizabeth McCracken has a new story collection on shelves. Also out: Chestnut Street by the late Maeve Binchy; In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman; Terms and Conditions by Robert Glancy; The Selected Letters of Elia Kazan; and new paperback editions of The Color Master by Aimee Bender and The Infatuations by Javier Marias.