We’ve got Thomas Frank stopping by momentarily to talk about how a buncha billionaries
brought about the collapse of the American financial system as we knew it “are putting capitalism and democracy in chains.” Five minutes or so. Taking questions now. Come join us—you can sign in w/ Facebook, Twitter, or email.
Malcolm Jones reviews J.K. Rowling’s first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy.
Bret Easton Ellis vs. David Foster Wallace: A Literary Fight (but not the best of all time, clearly)
We got our hands on a copy of Bob Woodward’s forthcoming The Price of Politics and it’s full of gems like this one, from John Boehner, detailing their secret meetings in July 2011 trying to hammer out a big budget deal. We’ve got more here.
Writers have been aggregating, storing and sharing information through “commonplace books” for centuries—it’s only the technology that’s changed:
Before the affordability of personal libraries, and before people were able to access the world’s knowledge through the Internet, readers and writers had to find reasonable ways to consolidate and store information that could be useful to them. There were no social media to help them aggregate and share stories, quotes, recipes, or images. That doesn’t mean they didn’t do exactly that. They created personal anthologies called commonplace books.
Click to learn more…
Commonplace books functioned as literary scrapbooks filled with quotes, poems, proverbs, prayers, recipes, and letters. Each was a unique collection that reflected the interests of its creator. “Great wits have short memories,” as a Chinese proverb goes; and so their short memories have driven the great wits to keep commonplace books.
[Photo: Sara Coleridge’s commonplace book, with some watercolors and poems. She was an English author and translator who was the daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.]
So we’ve noticed it may be hard to keep up with book club happenings by relying on the dashboard and dashboard alone. Do you want to get weekly updates via email? We’ll share things like: what you’ve missed, upcoming events, etc. If so, tell us your email address by submitting it via this form. We won’t share it, sell it, or plaster it on billboards in Times Square. Promise.
If you’re interested in the nwktumblr book club (we’re reading ‘Gold’ by Chris Cleave), give us your email address so we can keep you in the loop each week. If you’re still thinking of joining a summer book club, it’s not too late! Just check out the tumblr we created and scroll backwards. And get the book.)
After consulting with our brilliant books editor, we selected 5 titles from our “Best Summer Reads of 2012” list. Now it’s up to YOU to pick which of the 5 we read first. We’ll announce your pick later this week, and let’s plan to start reading next week (July 2nd)!
Here are summaries of the 5 books you can vote for:
Trollopian, Dickensian, Balzacian—all should spring to mind when you pick up John Lanchester’s hefty new novel about near present-day London. Set on a typical (and dear reader, atypical in having a writer as gifted as Lanchester tell its story) London street (Pepys Road), he weaves a rich story about the financial collapse and its impact on financier and graffiti artist alike. We’re all connected by capital.
“Literary thinking relies upon literary memory, and the drama of recognition,” Harold Bloom once wrote. Shipstead’s first novel can be read as an unremarkable Harvard-tinted, golf-club obsessed WASP comedy about a—what else—wedding on a—where else—Cape Cod island. But read past that and it’s clear Shipstead is coming to terms with T.S. Eliot (quoted in the epigraph), Shakespeare, Arthurian legends (chapters include “The Castle of the Maidens” and “The Maimed King”), and other mythologies (“A Centaur” and “The Ouroboros”), and connecting it to the American Camelot. (Even the title “Seating Arrangements” brings to mind the round table.) This is ambitious, but if you grew up in New England, how many times have you sat on your beach chair with The Once and Future Kingand a biography of JFK, purling these mythologies in your sunned head?
There’s a red house over yonder, and just as Jimi Hendrix splintered and exploded the blues while remaining exciting and accessible, Haddon, the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, has the same tendency on narrative. So it is that the story of Richard, a doctor who invites his sister’s family to stay at his vacation home, is told through the perspectives of eight different people, with almost each paragraph beginning with “Daisy wants happiness…” “Melissa tries to ring…” “Benjamin was crying…” At its best, it resembles a game of “Clue.”
The rotation of the world begins to slow, and the end of days (at least, of 24-hour days) is written not only as the struggle for survival but also a terrible bummer when 11-year-old Julia tries to maintain her crush on hottie Seth Moreno. This debut novel might sound like a cross between The Lovely Bones and Lar von Trier’s film Melancholia, but the conceit is memorable and there are hilarious moments. “We were not required to squeeze our days into twenty-four little hours. No new law was passed or put into place. This was America.”
Incendiary and the mega-million bestseller Little Beedepended on the driving force of plot, and Gold is the same. But the story of three friends eyeing their last chance at a gold medal in track cycling at the 2012 Olympics (and a daughter battling leukemia) is told like one long episode of Law and Order, with each scene prefaced by a date and setting, even including the hilariously imagined “Death Star, 1:55 p.m.” and “Dagobah System, 12:55 p.m.” alternating with the heartbreakingly real “Pediatric intensive care unit, North Manchester General Hospital, 12:35 p.m.” Cleave is at last completely aware of his reliance of contrived events and emotions, just like in a television drama, and there need not be any shame in it.
It’s happening! Get up in our book club, tumblr! You’ve got a few days to vote and tell us which book we’re reading for July. AND! Make sure to follow the NWK Book Club tumblr for updates, discussion points, questions, #readingfaces, etc.
We asked, and you voted. Coming soon, we’ll announce the details for our first ever nwk tumblr book club! In which we read a book and, well, blog about it with all of you.