Critical Reads October 5, 2012: The Embarrassment of Riches Edition
- Best of List
“My few minutes of fame at age 75!”
This week was a study in the embarrassment of riches, as Tom Dibblee wrote about Jay McInerney having a few too many drinks and the OUP Blog explored Truman Capote's myriad lies. Then James Wood made me spill over with renewed love for Henry James. Google and five publishers decided there are enough books to go around, settling their copyright suit. Finally, a new Sylvia Plath poem has been uncovered -- and that is anything but the embarrassment of riches.
Sylvia and Marty (Alumnae Association of Smith College)
I will admit freely that I obsess over Sylvia Plath. I own multiple editions of Plath's journals. I can scare/bore anyone with a diatribe on Gwyneth Paltrow's miscasting as Plath in the film Sylvia. I first became interested in the band The Antlers because of the Sylvia Plath rendering on their album Hospice. So I was quite thrilled when I read that a new Sylvia Plath poem has been discovered in a letter to her friend Marcia "Marty" Stern Brown.
What the Hell Happened to Jay McInerney? (Salon)
Tom Dibblee was once a bit of a Jay McInerney fanboy, seduced by the second-person glitter of Bright Lights, Big City. Then while working as a waiter at Minetta Tavern, he became a bit of a disgruntled fanboy, distraught when confronted with the fratty wino party of which McInerney had become a part. Part elegy to McInerney's potential, part literary coming-of-age story (because what is more coming-of-age than losing innocent reverence?), the article provides an overview of McInerney's career and what this career arc has meant personally to Dibblee. Dibblee both succumbs to the gossipy urge to discuss McInerney's drinking habits and credits the author for his stylistic gems. Ultimately, however, I'm still a little gun-shy when it comes to this brand of ad hominem criticism.
Publishers and Google Reach an Agreement (PR Newswire)
It's been seven years since five publishers filed a lawsuit against Google for copyright infringement. Now the parties have settled on an agreement whereby the Google Library Project may provide access to publishers' in-copyright books and journals. The agreement does, however, acknowledge the right of publishers to remove their books from the digital collection.
Perfuming the Money Issue (London Review of Books)
A new Henry James biography is out, and in lieu of this, James Wood has written a wonderful celebration of Portrait of a Lady -- with a couple of compulsory metions of the Michael Gorra bio. In fact, this is less a review of Portrait of a Novel than it is a close reading of Portrait of a Lady. Wood's facility is in making you fall in love with James' work all over again, as he illuminates the "careful confusion" of Isabel Archer's characterization, the snide blips of humor, and the "metaphorical surplus" of the oeuvre.
Truman Capote's Artful Lies (OUP Blog)
A couple of weeks ago, I spent a lovely Saturday afternoon stuffing my face and reading George Plimpton's interview with Truman Capote in Longform's Guide to Writing Great Nonfiction for Slate. (By the way, if you haven't been reading the Longform archive aggregation on Slate every Saturday, you have really been missing out.) This piece on the possibility of writing a psychobiography of the great storyteller makes a fantastic companion piece to the interview, in which Capote discusses his work on In Cold Blood in great detail.
Check back every Friday for the next installment of our Critical Reads series.