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This Week's Reading

What We’re Loving: Roman Britain, Soccer, Karaoke

August 16, 2013 | by

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Thanks to the success of The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal is now a familiar name to readers. Less well-known is that of his grandmother, Elisabeth, a central character in that book and an author in her own right. Never published in her lifetime, Elisabeth de Waal’s The Exiles Return was recently rereleased by Persephone and, in this country, by Picador. The novel centers around exiles, like de Waal herself, returning to a vastly changed, postwar Vienna. It’s not always assured, but invariably interesting, often painful, highly absorbing, and a vivid picture of that moment in history—as well as the experience of displacement itself. —Sadie O. Stein

Charlotte Higgins covers the arts beat for the Guardian, and is just the sort of reporter who makes Americans love that paper, with a love that is close to envy. She is witty, rangy, unapologetically goofy and erudite at once. All of these qualities inform her first book, Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain, a sort of travelogue and essay on Roman ruins in the British imagination. Whether Higgins is walking Hadrian’s Wall or handling the “curse tablets”—fourth-century voodoo spells—recovered from the mineral springs at Bath, she is the best possible company. I have been reading her only very late at night, just to make the journey last. —Lorin Stein

Our upcoming Fall issue features an interview with French writer Emmanuel Carrère. While helping to prep this piece for publication, I had the pleasure of reading Carrère’s work, much of which has been translated into English. A favorite quickly emerged: Carrère’s My Life as a Russian Novel. The autobiographical work weaves together Carrère’s experiences in rural Russia and Paris, his love life, and his half-hearted reporting in post-Soviet Kotelnich. The book focuses on the events of particularly tumultuous year; embedded at center is a pornographic love letter Carrère wrote to his then-girlfriend, which was scandalously published in Le Monde. My Life as a Russian Novel is a fantastic read—simultaneously quite Russian and very, very French. —Kate Rouhandeh

Just as the cicadas return every seventeen years, so does my love for soccer turn obsessive when World Cup preparations begin. While we obsessives are busy researching cheap Rio hotel options (there are none) and following big-money transfers in the Premiership (get it together, Rooney), the team at Howler has been busy creating a work of sport-fan art, with its third issue, a celebration of U.S. Soccer’s centennial, out now. A print magazine with a focus on long-form soccer journalism isn’t anything new (see The Blizzard), but this is the first with a North American audience in mind. Check out Luke O’Brien’s excellent profile on USMNT’s risoluto Michael Bradley, republished on Deadspin. Three hundred days to kick-off! —Justin Alvarez

Even the most devoted Maurice Sendak fans, who’ve read every book and ogled every poster by this giant—wild thing, if you will—of illustration, will find something they haven’t seen in “Maurice Sendak: A Celebration of the Artist and his Work,” at the Society of Illustrators for just two more days. I found the selection of studies in this exhibition to particularly striking; Sendak’s signature blocky composition can be seen evolving from one sketch to the next for books like In the Night Kitchen and and Chicken Soup with Rice. And for those fascinated by the darker side of Sendak, a group of grayscale pencil drawings for Outside Over There, one of the creepier works for children to come out of the last hundred years, is not to be missed. —Clare Fentress

I can be childishly perverse about recommendations; whenever someone tells me I’ll love something, it tends to make me irrationally suspicious. So the fact that five separate people wrote me about Rob Sheffield’s Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke meant I went into the experience at my most mulish, even though I loved the title, I love Sheffield’s writing, and I do love karaoke. Believe me when I say the book is wonderful: it’s both the story of how Sheffield recovered from the sudden death of his wife, and a look at the appeal of this strange, lonely, social practice. I’m recommending it to everyone I know, on the assumption that they’re less childish than I. —S.O.S.

 

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