March 15, 2017

The shortlist for the 2017 Wellcome Prize has been released. Nominees include Ed Yong’s I Contain Multitudes, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Gene, and David France’s How to Survive a Plague. The winner will be announced in April.

Harvard professor Jane Kamensky has been awarded the New York Historical Society’s annual book prize for A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley. She will be presented with the award as part of the society’s “Weekend in History” event in April.

Jami Attenberg

At The Millions, Jami Attenberg talks about the inspiration for her new novel, All Grown Up. Attenberg said she wanted her book to feel more like a memoir, “like this woman was telling you every single goddamn, messy thing you needed to know about her life.” She pointed to Patti Smith’s M Train, Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, and Eileen Myles’s Chelsea Girls as books that helped her find that tone: “Patti Smith just talks about whatever the fuck she wants to talk about, and Maggie Nelson writes in those short, meticulous, highly structured bursts, where you genuinely feel like she is making her case, and in Chelsea Girls Eileen has this dreamy, meandering quality, although she knows exactly what she’s doing.”

In the New Republic, Sam Sacks looks at the current trend in literary fiction to avoid the difficult, divided present in favor of simpler times of the past, and how that might widen the current cultural gap. Sacks points to Michael Chabon, George Saunders, and Colson Whitehead as just some of the writers who struggle to represent the problems of the present in their books’ historical settings. “As long as their brand of exuberant nostalgia holds appeal,” he writes, “there’s a danger of being left with a literature that tells us only what we already know, however enchantingly.”

At the New York Times, Amanda Hess looks into the popular podcast, Missing Richard Simmons. The Serial-style program was created by Dan Taberski, an acquaintance of Simmons’s who was disturbed by the fitness guru’s sudden disappearance from the public. But while Taberski has said that the podcast comes from a place of concern, Hess writes that it’s actually “an invasion of privacy masquerading as a love letter.” Theories entertained by Taberski about Simmons’s “disappearance” include depression over the death of his dogs and unhappiness with his physical decline, as well as less believable stories that he’s being held hostage by his housekeeper or that he underwent gender reassignment surgery, both of which Simmons has personally refuted. Hess feels that the podcast is misrepresenting Taberski’s relationship with Simmons—the two met because Taberski wanted to make a documentary about him. Even if the two had a closer relationship, Hess writes, the production would still be problematic. “Is this what friends do?” she asks. “Turn their loved one’s personal crisis into a fun mystery investigation and record it for a hit podcast?”

Tonight at Greenlight Bookstore, Hari Kunzru talks with Lisa Lucas about his new book, White Tears.

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