Staff Picks: Comparing Backbones, Jennifer Egan’s Journalism


This Week’s Reading

Christopher Sorrentino sent me this curiosity: a version of the David Foster Wallace story “Backbone” that compares the recent New Yorker version to a transcript of Wallace reading the story in 2000. —Lorin Stein

Jennifer Egan kicks off the new New York Times Magazine with a cover story about Lori Berenson. —Thessaly La Force

If you’re in the mood for having your brain bent ever so slightly out of shape, I recommend the lean, astringent fairy tales collected in Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Kingdoms of Elfin. Originally published in The New Yorker, just a few years before Angela Carter took her postmodern butcher knife to classics like “Puss in Boots,” they came at the end of an utterly singular literary life that quietly stretched across the last century. Warner’s fairies are humanly imperfect and the world they inhabit is mean and capricious, but the writing itself is a substance for which it is worth developing an addiction. —Jonathan Gharraie

This week I was sad to learn about the passing of Reverend Peter Gomes, Harvard’s Plummer Professor of Christian Morals. Among the many articles reflecting on his remarkable career in academics, politics, and religious life, I found this blog post, which includes many quotes by him, as a perfect tribute to both his sense of humor and immense wisdom. He will be greatly missed. —Natalie Jacoby

Growing up among the alligator-infested swamps of South Florida, Paul Kwiatkowski reminisces about his middle-school exploits in “Lions,” an excerpt from an upcoming novel and photo essay called “And Every Day Was Overcast.” —Angela Melamud

Who can keep up with events in the Middle East? So many dictators falling, so many squares full of people. One of the most acute and comprehensive sites for analysis is Jadaliyya—a cooperative of academics, journalists, and other informed people. I’ve been reading it constantly for the past month. —Robyn Creswell