It’s frustrating! Rewarding! Brilliant! Difficult!
If you’re intimidated by the prospect of reading David Markson’s famous novel Wittgenstein’s Mistress, maybe you should bring a friend along.
That’s what Kelsey Osgood did.
Kelsey is a contributor to The New Yorker, The New Republic, Salon, and Vice, but even she didn’t feel up to the task of reading Wittgenstein’s Mistress alone. So she read it with Nemira Gasiunas, a Philosophy PhD candidate at Columbia University, whose qualifications for understanding a novel based on the ideas of Ludwig Wittgenstein include “a very sage-sounding British accent.”
Osgood / Gasiunas
Now you can bring Kelsey and Nemira along as you read Wittgenstein’s Mistress. Divided into five parts, their smart, funny, occasionally exasperated commentary will help you tackle one of the most enduring novels of our time.
Just grab the book and read along.
This Friday, nerds and friends of nerds in the vicinity of “select theaters” will finally have to decide whether or not they are willing to go see The End of the Tour, the movie covering the days David Foster Wallace spent with Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky at the close of the promotional tour for Infinite Jest. The movie has been controversial, from the casting of comedic actor Jason Segel as Wallace to the disavowal of the project from the Wallace estate. Good people (again, mostly nerds) are wrestling with the question of whether they should go see it.
Until last night, I myself was one of those people/nerds. Continue reading
J.D. Salinger made an appearance on BoJack Horseman. He was working in a tandem bike shop.
Read more at A.V. Club.
photo by Chester Higgins Jr. / The New York Times
Jess Row is stealthily becoming our most subversive and progressive literary critic.
You probably know Jess Row for his fiction—The Train to Lo Wu and Your Face in Mine—or maybe for the beautiful little piece he wrote for Fiction Advocate not long ago. But over at The Boston Review, Row has been publishing a series of critical essays about privilege and point of view in literature. These essays are so calm, so deliberate, and so authoritative, that unless you read them all at once, you might miss how comprehensive and devastating Row’s critique really is.
In “The Novel Is Not Dead,” Row takes issue with other critics–mostly James Wood, David Shields, and Benjamin Kunkel–who assert that the best writing is engaged in depicting “reality” or “realism.” Observing that when they call for greater “reality” in fiction, they are often reinforcing their own idea of what reality is—white and privileged—Row accuses these critics of being “dogmatically bigoted.” He writes, “We need critics who set impatient standards, ask uncomfortable questions, and maintain an omnivorous appetite for the unfamiliar, the awkward, the angry, the untoward. Instead, we have a gated community, a velvet-roped garden party, a Brooklyn vs. Cambridge fantasy baseball league.”
The 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo is coming up on June 18. If you are a history buff, and you want to understand this momentous occasion a little better, there are plenty of books to choose from. If you are a fiction buff, there is only one: The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys, first published in French in 1986 and newly reissued by NYRB Classics in a translation by Patricia Cleary.
It’s not hard to imagine that Emperor Napoleon, with his network of military loyalists, could have smuggled himself out of exile on the island of St. Helena by sneaking in a body double to take his place. And, further, it’s not hard to imagine his plan going terribly wrong in one way or another, leaving an elderly Napoleon stranded on the European mainland under a false identity, roaming the new world that his conquests have created, trying desperately to get himself back in the game. That’s the plot of The Death of Napoleon, anyway. Continue reading
“I cut my boyfriend in half” are the first words in Angela Readman’s debut collection of stories. From there it only gets weirder. In “There’s a Woman Works Down the Chip Shop,” a mother turns—inexplicably—into Elvis. A girl helps her father with bizarre taxidermy in order to save the family in “The Keeper of the Jackalopes.”
Don’t Try This at Home includes the story that landed Angela Readman on the short list for the Costa Short Story Award in 2012, and the story that won it for her in 2013. You can read some of her best work here and here.
We asked the author 5 questions.
What do you think your readers think of you? Are they right? Continue reading
Edgar Allen Poe’s early mystery stories are the inspiration for The Black Cat by J.M. Geever, a novel that Fiction Advocate is proud to publish. They are also an inspiration for the world’s most famous sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. In his new book, The Great Detective, Zach Dundas offers a popular history of Sherlock Holmes, which begins with this origin story about Edgar Allan Poe.
“With ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue,’ ‘The Purloined Letter,’ and ‘The Mystery of Marie Roget,’” Paul Collins [an Associate Professor of English at Portland State University] told me, “Poe starts the tradition of the mystery that centers on a singular, charismatic detective, one who works outside the system and solves the mystery by observation and deduction rather than random chance.” Poe’s stories revolve around a Parisian oddball named Auguste Dupin. Significantly, his nameless and subservient roommate acts as narrator. When I later burrowed back into these numbers, all published in the 1840s, for the first time since high school, Dupin and his buddy struck me as obvious embryos of Holmes and Watson—though, this being Poe, they are significantly weirder. They live together in a giant, decaying mansion, keep the windows shuttered all day to produce artificial night, a.k.a. “the sable divinity,” and lounge about reading creepy books and going into crackpot-Romantic trances. Mrs. Hudson would have to clean the place out with a flamethrower.
His book isn’t even on sale in the United States yet, and already Kamel Daoud has been the subject of breathless coverage in The Nation, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The New York Times Magazine. A Salafist imam in Algeria issued a fatwa against him on Facebook. He narrowly lost the Prix Goncourt—France’s top literary prize—by only two votes. A movie adaption is slated for 2017. So if you haven’t heard of Kamel Daoud yet, take a deep breath. Here we go.
The Meursault Investigation is a novel-length rebuke of The Stranger by Albert Camus. Remember in The Stranger, how the main character—a self-questioning young Frenchman in Algeria named Meursault—goes to the beach at mid-day and lazily shoots a stranger dead? The whole book hinges on that scene. It’s meant to show us that Meursault is so conflicted about conventional morality that he genuinely doesn’t know if killing a stranger is wrong anymore. Must be tough to be Meursault, right?
Maybe. But it’s even tougher to be the guy Meursault killed. In The Stranger he’s only described as “The Arab.” Even though this character’s death is the crux of the novel, and he’s been, you know, murdered for no good reason, Camus barely mentions him. Doesn’t even give him a name. The death of this nameless Arab is a blip in the life of our European hero. For decades, readers have venerated Camus and discussed The Stranger in those terms.