- Congratulations to Akhil Sharma, whose novel Family Life has won the Folio Prize. Writing the book, Sharma said, was “like chewing stones”: “I’m glad the book exists, I just wish I hadn’t been the guy who wrote it.”
- “The traditional complaint about teenagers—that they treat the place like a hotel—has no purchase on me. In fact, I quite like the idea. A hotel is a place where you can come and go autonomously and with dignity; a place where you will not be subjected to criticism, blame or guilt; a place where you can drop your towel on the floor without fear of reprisal, but where, hopefully, over time, you become aware of the person whose job it is to pick it up and instead leave it folded neatly on a chair.” Rachel Cusk on raising teenagers.
- The Great Gatsby was published in 1925 to lukewarm reviews and sluggish sales—how did it become a classic? Salute (or blame) the GIs: “As a part of a revolutionary scheme of donating more than 22 million books to World War II troops abroad, a publisher threw in a random book from its backlist: The Great Gatsby … Gatsby and others entered the consciousness of millions of men who returned from war with an appreciation for paperback books and reading.”
- A group of Catholics have proposed G. K. Chesterton for sainthood. “Chesterton, in his jolly way, was a militant. A blaster of the superstitions of modernity, a toppler of the idols of materialism. He inveighed ceaselessly, at great length, and without ever once repeating himself, against ‘the thought-destroying forces of our time’: pessimism and determinism and pragmatism and impressionism.”
- A brief history of gayness on television: “By the fall of 1974, three years after the first gay cameo on popular American television (the vehicle was the liberal lodestar All in the Family), there were a handful of gay characters on prime time … ‘All were rapists, child molesters, or murderers.’ Activists lobbied networks to stop depicting gays as criminals and, within a few years, moved on to more subtle forms of otherness.”
This morning, the Folio Prize announced the eight novels on their 2015 shortlist. The prize, now in its second year, is the only major English-language book award open to writers around the world; it aims “to celebrate the best fiction of our time, regardless of form or genre.” Its chair of judges, William Fiennes, told the Guardian that the books on this year’s list “say something true about human experience in a way that feels like something new”: “There’s dazzle and wildness and experiment hand in hand with a deep core commitment to human struggles and fervors and longings.”
Plenty of that dazzle and wildness is already familiar to our readers, who have encountered three of this year’s shortlisted novels in The Paris Review. Parts of Ben Lerner’s 10:04 appeared in our Summer 2013 and Spring 2014 issues; our Winter 2014 issue included an extract from Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation; and in that same issue, we began to serialize the entirety of Rachel Cusk’s Outline. We’re delighted that the three of them have been recognized for their work.
The full shortlist is below—congratulations to all the nominees. The winner will be announced on March 23.
- George Saunders is the first to win the new £40,000 Folio Prize.
- Joe McGinniss is dead, at seventy-one.
- Illustrations from international editions of Don Quixote published in the quixotic sixties.
- “As a teenager, I thought I was the only person who revered Geek Love … Years later, when I was an editor at The Paris Review, I wrote to Dunn, and we became occasional pen pals.”
- Stonehenge may have been a “prehistoric glockenspiel”; it’s made of “lithophones, or rocks that produce notes when struck.”
- “His eyes flit without rest from television screen, to newspaper, to magazine, keeping him in a sort of orgasm-without-release through a series of teasing glimpses of shiny automobiles, shiny female bodies, and other sensuous surfaces.”
- “Everyone wants to be clever—it’s hard to give up that side and go blindly for stupidity. But even more frightening was the fact that it was so easy … I guess I have a talent for humiliation.” An interview with Karl Ove Knausgaard.
- On the shortlist for Britain’s new Folio Prize, open to all English-language writers: Rachel Kushner, Anne Carson, Sergio de la Pava, George Saunders, and more.
- Since T. S. Eliot has been lionized as Britain’s favorite poet, let’s all take a step back and remember: he was one of the most “daemonic poets who ever lived.”
- “O where are they now, your harridan nuns / who thumped on young heads with a metal thimble / and punished with rulers your upturned palms”: RIP Pulitzer-winning poet Maxine Kumin, who died last week, at eighty-eight.