The French writer Patrick Modiano has been awarded the Nobel Prize. Modiano was born in 1945, to a Belgian actress mother and an Italian-Jewish father. His first novel, La Place de L’Etoile, about a Jewish collaborator in World War II, was published in 1968. (His father reportedly so disapproved that he tried to buy up all the copies.) Modiano has published more than twenty-five books since, among them Missing Person, Out of the Dark, and Dora Bruder. “I prefer not to read my early books,” he said in 2010. “Not that I don’t like them, but I don’t recognize myself anymore, like an old actor watching himself as a young leading man.”
Philip Roth wasn’t expecting the prize. If he’d wanted to win it, he told the New York Times, he would have called Portnoy’s Complaint “The Orgasm Under Rapacious Capitalism.” Dwight Garner points out that the Nobel committee’s blind spot is “mostly for wit.”
Kim Gordon’s memoir, Girl in a Band, will be released in February 2015. The book describes Gordon’s many years with Sonic Youth and the breakup of the band (and that of Gordon’s marriage to Thurston Moore).
Are buyouts a good idea for the employers who offer them? They can have a “perverse incentive structure,” Capital New York says, discussing the Times‘s recent round of layoffs, because those who choose to take them “self-select for success”: “The people who usually take buyouts are the people who can get jobs elsewhere, and those are precisely the people you would tend to want to keep. . . . On the other hand, management can and does suggest that under-performers consider buyouts—sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t.”
Edith Wharton’s 1913 novel Custom of the Country will be adapted into an eight-part TV series. Scarlett Johansson will play the peerlessly shallow and calculating Undine Spragg, who social-climbs her way into New York society via a series of marriages and divorces. Johansson will also produce the series.
On the New Yorker‘s fiction podcast, George Saunders reads Grace Paley and Barry Hannah.