Book News Roundup: Did Hemingway keep guinea pigs?

  • Hooray for Dr. Carla D. Hayden! As of yesterday, she's officially the 20th Librarian of Congress and, as Shelf Awareness notes, she's "the first woman, and the first African American, to serve as chief executive of the Library of Congress."

  • This Vulture profile of Helen DeWitt is definitely worth your time. And if you haven't read her long-out-of-print novel The Last Samurai, it's available again in finer bookstores everywhere. DeWitt is an American literary genius, and this profile perfectly captures that:

At the core of The Last Samurai is the notion that most people don’t meet their potential because the culture teaches them to assume there are things they just can’t do. The central example is Ludo reading Homer in the original Greek. “The Greek alphabet looks more daunting than it really is,” DeWitt said. “I could get anybody reading the Greek script in an hour. I thought that this could be something that I could reveal in the book. People might read the novel and think, Gosh, if somebody had introduced this to me I could have done it. And so now I can have a grievance against our education system, just like the author of this book.”
  • If you love to hate-read, you can't do much better than the highlights of the insufferable email exchanges between Natalie Portman and novelist Jonathan Safran Foer. The Cut's exerpts begin with Foer:
It’s almost 6:00 in the morning. The boys are still asleep. I can hear the guinea pigs stirring, but that might be the residue of a nightmare. People often refer to aloneness and writer’s block as the two great challenges of being a novelist. In fact, the hardest part is having to care for guinea pigs.