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Talking books with Judy Blume and Lena Dunham; reading Chekhov for a better 2014

Anton Chekhov

Judy Blume and Lena Dunham trade notes on reading for a new, pocket-sized volume published by The Believer.

If you’ve already faltered on your New Year’s resolutions, Brendan Mathews suggests reading Chekhov for a better 2014, albeit with a few caveats: “Before embarking on a self-help tour of late-Czarist Russia, be advised that Chekhov doesn’t provide easy answers to becoming a kinder, more caring person,” he writes, in an essay for the Millions. “There’s no five-step solution, no short prayer that will increase your fortunes and lay waste to the fields of your enemies…. Chekhov doesn’t make us better people by restoring our faith in the fundamental goodness of humanity or by charming us with the bright hope of a happy ending.”

At the Jewish Daily Forward, Joshua Furst has published a thoughtful obituary of the author Amiri Baraka, who has been portrayed as “a hateful, irredeemable anti-Semite.”

Susan Bernovsky’s new translation of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, with an introduction by filmmaker David Cronenberg, is now available. Bookforum contributor Andrew Hultkrans writes: “In our present era, marked by a ferment of genetic engineering and hybridization (not to mention isolation and economic hardship), revisiting this text seems not only appropriate but necessary.” And at The Atlantic, Ben Marcus ponders the true meaning of “Kafkaesque.”

On the heels of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, The Guardian reports on the rise of the marriage thriller.

This spring, New York Live Arts is hosting a festival honoring James Baldwin, including visual art, theater, dance, and lectures about the legendary author’s work.

In the London Review of Books, Christian Lorentzen delves into the perils of knowing your namesake.