Tag Archives: Zadie Smith

The Best Books to Distract You From the Dumpster Fire That Was 2016

Should 2016 be forgot and never brought to mind…

There are, no doubt, a few people who love Donald Trump, hate music, don’t like zoo animals and despise beloved actors and actresses. For the rest of us, 2016 was terrible.

This calls for distractions. We asked Fiction Advocate contributors to tell us which books they read this year that helped them forget, even for fleeting moments, that David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Gwen Ifill, Prince, and America — UPDATE: and George Michael and Carrie Fisher and her mom, Debbie Reynolds — died over the last 12 months.

In what may be the only happy coincidence of the year, the vast majority of the recommendations below come from a few people who have some of the most important things to say about 2016: Continue reading

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What We’re Reading – November 2016

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Swing Time by Zadie Smith: “Two brown girls dream of being dancers–but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either…”

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Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada: “Three generations (grandmother, mother, son) of polar bears are famous as both circus performers and writers in East Germany: they are polar bears who move in human society, stars of the ring and of the literary world. Happy or sad, each bear writes a story, enjoying both celebrity and ‘the intimacy of being alone with my pen.’”

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Moonglow by Michael Chabon:Moonglow unfolds as the deathbed confession of a man the narrator refers to only as ‘my grandfather.’ It is a tale of madness, of war and adventure, of sex and marriage and desire, of existential doubt and model rocketry, of the shining aspirations and demonic underpinnings of American technological accomplishment at midcentury, and, above all, of the destructive impact—and the creative power—of keeping secrets and telling lies.”

Also this month: We’ll review Loner by Teddy Wayne, interview Elizabeth Greenwood, author of Playing Dead, and launch a new column (!) devoted to literature in translation.

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The Colbert in the Rye

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Last night, two of my favorite things came together when the cOlbert Book Club covered “Everything but The Catcher in the Rye.”

Colbert has spoken often about Salinger on his show. In 2008 he challenged the author to come on The Report, and covered Salinger’s passing in 2010. These segments hold to Colbert’s usual irreverence, but the show’s attention to Salinger comes from a genuine place. When he’s not in character, Colbert is a dedicated fan of  the author. In 2011, he contributed a small letter to Know the Past, Find the Future: The New York Public Library at 100. In the book, he is pictured holding a stack of Salinger’s letters that are stored at the NYPL. Colbert wrote:

I suspect this photo would have annoyed J.D. Salinger. Here I am, the stereotypical liberal arts fanboy, going weak over something he typed.

But I can’t help myself. When I first read Salinger, I thought he wrote the Glass family stories just for me.

You can see the image and read the full entry in the book, which also features contributions from Jonathan Franzen, David Remnick, Zadie Smith and others.

Colbert reading Salinger's letters.

Stephen Colbert reading Salinger’s letters at the New York Public Library.

Last night’s Report was completely dedicated to Salinger. Over the fireplace was an adapted Catcher cover reading “The Colbert in the Rye,” and the segments included the first installment of the one-part series “Better Know a Salinger;” interviews with Tobias Wolff and Shane Salerno; and an appearance of JarJar Caulfield (just watch it).

There was no mention of The Real Holden Caulfield, but I speak for all of us at Fiction Advocate in saying that we would happily provide Mr. Colbert with a free copy. Or if he wants to purchase one (or a few), our proceeds are still being donated to the Wounded Warrior Project — another issue I know Colbert cares deeply about.

Watch the full cOlbert Book Club “Everything but The Catcher in the Rye” episode.

– Michael Moats

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Guest Post: Consider the Year of David Foster Wallace

Ed. Note: By any measure, Matt Bucher is an important contributor to the ongoing conversation about David Foster Wallace. For the last 10 years, he has administered the wallace-l listserv, which brings together enthusiasts, journalists, authors and scholars to discuss and debate the author. Recently, he offered research and review assistance to help shape D.T. Max’s 2012 biography, Every Love Story is Ghost Story, and is thanked in the book’s acknowledgements section for offering “top-level knowledge of DFW.” Fiction Advocate is glad to publish his thoughts on the biography and YEAR OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE.

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I. The Year of DFW & DTM

Q. Why was 2012 “the year of DFW”?
A. Well, it has a nice ring to it.

Since his death in 2008, David Foster Wallace has become an increasingly established star in the literary firmament. Those who care about trends and increments could very well say that there was “a lot” of activity around Wallace or “Wallace studies” in 2012, in hindsight. There was much to say about Wallace in 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008, as well. I expect 2013 and 2014 and 2063 will be no different.

This year, there is at least one book of essays on Wallace (edited by Stephen J. Burn and Marshall Boswell) due for publication, several dissertations on Wallace pitched as monographs to university presses, a reissue of Signifying Rappers due this summer, Greg Carlisle’s reader’s guide to Oblivion, and other books of previously unpublished Wallace material to come. I think it’s a real possibility that we will see a book of Wallace’s letters, a Portable David Foster Wallace reader, or another collection of unpublished short fiction. Comparisons to Tupac’s posthumous catalog will endure.

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