Staff Picks: David Vann, Chip Kidd, James Salter


This Week’s Reading

Last spring our former managing editor and I spent weeks poring over David Vann’s first novel, Caribou Island, when it was in manuscript, trying to find an excerpt we could publish in The Paris Review. Caribou Island is tough, funny, sad, scary, and hard to put down. It has haunted me ever since. The bad news (for us) was that the whole novel is so much of a piece, we couldn’t tease out one strand. The good news is that now the book is out: You can read the whole thing yourself. —Lorin Stein

I love paging through Chip Kidd: Book One, a designer’s history as told through book jackets. Visually stunning, it offers the stories behind the making of some very iconic covers. One of my favorites is a rejected cover for The Illustrated Woody Allen Reader, featuring a large, black square. “I thought it was kind of cute—in an angsty, despairing, Nietzschean sort of way,” Kidd says. —Kate Guadagnino

Encountering James Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime for the first time is like finally springing for that Cabernet your friends have been praising for years and knowing from the first sip the bottle will disappear much too quickly. The novel unfolds in a series of seductions familiar in their outline—lovers, friends, even France itself—but in such exquisite prose that reading each page is to suffer the pleasure of an affair that must end in the morning. Witness the treatment even of a momentary character: “She has been a famous actress, I recognize her. The debris of a great star. Narrow lips. The face of a dedicated drinker. She constantly piles up her hair with her hands and then lets it fall. She laughs, but there is no sound. It’s all in silence—she is made out of yesterdays.” Wow. —Peter Conroy

I have long despised the use of a double space after the period. Maybe it’s because of how many times I’ve had to manually weed it out, slowly moving my cursor from sentence to sentence, my other finger hovering over the delete button. At a recent dinner, I found myself outnumbered by double-spacers. But now, finally, justice! Slate’s Farhad Majoo has come to my defense, brilliantly (and patiently) explaining the problem. If anyone can make the double space sound like biggest faux pas you’ll ever make on the page, it’s him. —Thessaly La Force

It’s been a busy twelve months for the splendid Jon McGregor. First came his novel, Even the Dogs, a beautifully harmonized hymn for the voiceless. Then, last month, he was declared runner-up in BBC Radio 4’s National Short Story of the Year for “If It Keeps Raining,” a disturbing but unusually tender lament for the Hillsborough tragedy. Now he rings in the New Year with a grisly compilation of the top-ten dead bodies in literature. McGregor has claimed creative descent from Faulkner, Kelman, and McGahern, but the delicacy with which he frames forgotten lives is entirely his own. —Jonathan Gharraie