The Sunday post

(A collection of pieces we noted this week.)

Joe Gould's Teeth

Jill Lepore writes in The New Yorker about the longest book ever written, and whether or not it actually existed.

There ought to be a “Danger” sign. Writers tumble into this story, and then they plummet. I have always supposed this to be because Gould suffered from hypergraphia. He could not stop writing. This is an illness, a mania, but seems more like something a writer might envy, which feels even rottener than envy usually does, because Gould was a toothless madman who slept in the street. You are envying a bum: Has it come to this, at last? But then you’re relieved of the misery of that envy when you learn that what he wrote was dreadful. Except, wait, that’s worse, because then you have to ask: Maybe everything you write is dreadful, too? But then, in one last twist, you find out that everything he wrote never even existed. Still, either way, honestly, it’s depressing as hell. So I got interested in knowing if any of it was true.
What the hell is Wild Animus?

Peter Derk wonders why he always sees copies of this strange book, Wild Animus, in used bookstores.

How is this possible? It's no big surprise to run into A Million Little Pieces or a Da Vinci Code. Those books, the guys who wrote those books, they were everywhere. But who the hell is Rich Shapero? How did his book get this much exposure?

Just what the hell is Wild Animus?

Portlander Ursula K. Le Guin is Breathing Fire to Save American Literature

A wonderful piece on one of the most unique and well-loved American writers, who at 85 gave a barn-burner of a speech at the National Book Awards last year.

To me, and to many others, the miracle of these books lies in the way Le Guin managed to write about enchanted realms and faraway planets without ever straying from the core issues of our own bluish rock. While many fantastical novels and films present starship battles and magic spells as mindless spectacle, Le Guin relentlessly turned sci-fi’s trappings into innovative new avenues to plumb deeper human conflicts. In so doing, she helped hack out the all-important path between science fiction and literary legitimacy that writers like Michael Chabon and David Mitchell walk today—which is why so many big-name current authors credit her with their careers, and more. As the fantasy superstar (and lifelong superfan) Neil Gaiman said as he presented Le Guin’s National Book Foundation medal, “She made me a better writer. And I think much more importantly, she made me a better person who wrote.”