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This Week's Reading

Staff Picks: Terry Castle, Jane Smiley, Ramona Ausubel

April 1, 2011 | by

Diary of Sophia Peabody Hawthorne (1809–71).

Do not take Terry Castle to bed if you plan on getting any sleep. I keep trying to savor The Professor, her memoirs of love and friendship in the academy. It’s like trying to savor cocaine. The title essay, about a formative affair Castle had as an undergraduate, is now up there on a short shelf in my mind alongside Adolphe and First Love. —Lorin Stein

In the Morgan Library’s exhibition “The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives,” Bob Dylan sketches a hotel-room table and then uses it to ink out a poem; JP Morgan has a first-rate time with the girls at dancing school; Charlotte Bronte struggles to write in between her studies; John Ruskin graphs out “pretty” chess moves; and Albert Einstein thinks “about the gravitation-electricity problem again” even though he knows he should be doing other things. The show comes complete with a brochure of carefully typed out diary entries, but I found it much more rewarding to squint my way through the diaries, wondering at the tiny scribbles and neat printings, and feeling just a bit closer to these beloved authors and figures. —Rosalind Parry

I have a girl crush on Ramona Ausubel, whose short story “Atria” was published in The New Yorker this week. I can’t wait to read her forthcoming novel, No One Is Here Except All of Us. Of it, Ausubel admits, “I have been trying not to think too hard about what it will be like to release this story to the great big world.” (P. S. Don’t miss her story in The Daily last week.) —Thessaly La Force

This week I read Jane Smiley’s first novel, Barn Blind. I loved it—but only partly for Smiley’s gripping portrait of a family smothered by obsession, more alone together than apart. I also lost myself in the particulars of equestrian life, which were all the days of my youth. It’s like a horse book for grown-ups. —Nicole Rudick

I felt a wave of nostalgia this week when I found Raymond Carver’s “Why Don’t You Dance?” reprinted in the new issue of Zoetrope: All-Story. The peg? It came with a foreword by Will Ferrell, who’s staring in a new film called Everything Must Go, adapted from the story and directed by Dan Rush. —Janet Thielke

I spent the weekend reading David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King. It was a frustrating and bittersweet experience—not because of the writing, but for the underlying suspicion that Wallace was only beginning to untangle the larger themes of the novel from the dense, IRS-center backdrop. As our Southern editor John Jeremiah Sullivan noted, it’s hard to accept that there won’t be more of Wallace's writing to look forward to, but I know his work will continue to reveal new wisdom and insights for years to come. —Natalie Jacoby

Another reprinting: Written after the 1995 earthquake in Kobo, Japan, Haruki Murakami's “U.F.O. In Kushiro” was published in last week’s New Yorker. —Angela Melamud

1 COMMENT

1 Comments

  1. NubianEmpress | April 5, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    I bought two David Foster Wallace books this weekend, and finally decided to see what Jonathan Franzen is about. I’m excited to read!

    Also, I wonder if anyone will be reading the new Manning Marable book on Malcolm X.

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