paper trail

West v. Obama; Knausgaard v. Eugenides?

Nightmare lunch date Karl Ove Knausgaard

Without direct reference to the New Republic or its attack on him, Cornel West has responded on Facebook, noting the many reasons aside from sour grapes that one might have for criticising an American president (see today’s headlines for one example), and writing that “character assassination is the refuge of those who hide and conceal these issues in order to rationalize their own allegiance to the status quo.

In his review of the latest Knausgaard installment, which will run in this Sunday’s New York Times, Jeffrey Eugenides brings some special expertise to bear, not just as a novelist, but as a man. Knausgaard’s travel saga for the NYT magazine included a paragraph about an excruciatingly awkward lunch with “a well-known American writer” in which the Norwegian barely spoke. Knausgaard didn’t reveal the name of his unfortunate lunch date, Eugenides writes: “But I will: It was me.” (Observers will note that these two don’t seem to have trouble thinking of things to say to each other as long as it’s in public.) Eugenides speculates that he “may be the first reviewer of Knausgaard’s autobiographical works who has appeared in one of them. Therefore, I’m in a perfect position to judge how he uses the stuff of his life to fashion his stories.” Spoiler: he’s still a KOK fan.

Like so many authors, Eugenides seems to empathize in particular with one aspect of the fictionalized Knausgaard’s titular ”struggle,” the effort to write “something exceptional”, which is “hard to do right now because the world is awash in stories.” The Brooklyn writer Jonathan Basile is feeling this problem ever more keenly since he decided to build a version of Jorge Luis Borges’s Library of Babel in the form of a website (confusing for people who’ve been reading the Borges version as a precursor to the Internet all along). Basile told Flavorwire he still sees himself mainly as a writer of fiction, “but I sometimes wonder what the point is now. I’ve already published every possible story I could write.” Still, coding the site “really increased my desire to permute things”—his Twitter account attempting all possible permutations of 140 characters is called Permuda Triangle.

If all that makes you long for your analogue days, Miranda July has just released Somebody 2.0, the new version of her app that allows users to send real-life messages via passing strangers.

M.H. Abrams, distinguished scholar of Romanticism and editor of the first seven editions of that stalwart, the Norton Anthology of English Literature, has died at 102. When the anthology turned 50, Abrams told an interviewer that he loved meeting middle-aged readers who said: “I still have the Norton Anthology that I used 20 years ago. I have it at my bed’s head, and I read it at night, and I enjoy it.

Those in the market for some soothing bedtime reading will be glad to know that Reese Witherspoon is to record the audiobook for Harper Lee’s long delayed and much debated Go Set a Watchman.

On the other hand, you might want to stay up for tonight’s twenty-four-hour orgy of philosophizing on Fifth Avenue. (The event has proved controversial, though, so it may be that the promised all-night coffee and morning croissants won’t be tempting enough.)