1. Articles from our archives are occasionally rediscovered by bloggers, giving new life to decades-old works. Often that’s when we rediscover them, too. Morris Freedman’s 2002 article, “Why I Don’t Read Books Much Anymore,” has been making those rounds this week:
For several years now I’ve been reading fewer books, from start to finish, that is. Not that my reading has diminished. If anything, I’m reading more now, more words certainly, every day, every week, daily and Sunday newspapers, weeklies, fortnightlies, monthlies, book reviews, quarterlies, portions of books, encyclopedia articles, professional publications, computer manuals and magazines, student papers. […] I am confident that I cover a wider, more diverse, and even a more nourishing intellectual landscape at this point in my life by grazing widely, occasionally pausing to linger over an appetizing patch, rather than feeding narrowly and deeply all the time.
2. Morris Freedman’s endorsement of reading online might be encouraging to those lamenting that the Washington Post’s book section is ceasing print publication. It will live online, and the paper will still print some book reviews, scattered about the newspaper.
3. Poets are celebrating Barack Obama’s inauguration with a poem each day “written for and during the first 100 days of this new administration.” Day 4 brought a poem by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, whose poetry was published in VQR a few years ago. (The work of the actual inaugural poet, Elizabeth Alexander, was met with mixed reviews, but Graywolf Press is loving it.)
4. PEN is calling attention to the plight of Liu Xiaobo, a human rights activist who has been detained by the Chinese government in a secret location for the last month and a half. The State Department has called on China to release him, as have 300 writers, including VQR contributors Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood.
5. We published Dan Chaon’s short story, “Shepherdess,” in our Fall 2006 issue, and it got a great public reaction. (The opening sentence starts things off on the right foot: “This girl I’ve been seeing falls out of a tree one June evening.” Whether you loved it the first time around or you never read it in the first place, now you can listen to Dan read it aloud, courtesy of Ohio University’s “Wired for Books.”
6. A classic updated to reflect our post-apocalyptic, flesh-eating times: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith. The publisher describes it:
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen’s beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Complete with 20 illustrations in the style of C. E. Brock (the original illustrator of Pride and Prejudice), this insanely funny expanded edition will introduce Jane Austen’s classic novel to new legions of fans.
7. Just to bring things full circle, Jane Austen fans may well enjoy “ ‘A Barkeeper Entering the Kingdom of Heaven’: Did Mark Twain Really Hate Jane Austen?,” Emily Auerbach’s article from our Winter 1999 issue. Bloggers have been passing around this article for the last couple of years, and seem to delight in this particular passage:
Twain marveled that Austen had been allowed to die a natural death rather than face execution for her literary crimes. “Her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy,” Twain observed, apparently viewing an Austen novel as a book which “once you put it down you simply can’t pick it up.” Yet one becomes suspicious of Twain’s supposedly frenzied loathing when he confesses that he likes to reread Jane Austen’s novels just so he can hate them all over again. In a letter to Joseph Twichell in 1898, Twain fumed, “I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read “Pride and Prejudice” I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”