J.D. Salinger’s subject is not precocious childhood at all, the experience of knowing too much too early, but what comes after: the prospects of precocious children once adulthood has caught up to them. Kenneth Slawenski’s new biography SALINGER: A LIFE brings Salinger’s less recognized status as a writer for adults excellently, and elegantly, into relief.
If criminal law is a set of competing narratives that succeed or fail on the strength of their storytelling, Malcolm both identifies with and transcends the methods of the court room—she shows the human identity of the impersonal law, the fragility and foibles of its practitioners and the mercenary power of its effect.
This is exactly what we need: more books that don’t force us to choose between enthusiasm and rigor, the ridiculous and the sublime, stories and arguments, the personal and the literary. If the theories we use to read novels don’t also help us read our lives, then we’ve missed the point entirely.
I just finished reading Alfred Kazin’s book Writing Was Everything, written 1995 and worked up from his Massey Lectures at Harvard. The vitality of Kazin’s writing is so moving, so infectious, and his portraits of the writers and intellectuals of the day so enticing, I wanted to share some here.
A week in online reading: the photographer W. Eugene Smith celebrates a lesser known Tennessee Williams play, a biographer of Dickens and a translator of Rimbaud give notes on their work, the Criterion Collection re-releases Mike Leigh. And more!