Here's some good bits from the past week or so:
• Nicholas Baker's excellent Times review of Ammon Shea's Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages, a chronicle of the year Shea spent reading the Oxford English Dictionary:
Months in, Shea arrives -- back-aching, crabby, page-blind -- at Chapter N. "Some days I feel as if I do not actually speak the English language," he writes, his verbal cortex overflowing. "It is," he observes, "like trying to remember all the trees one sees through the window of a train." Once he stares for a while, amazed, at the word glove. "I find myself wondering why I've never seen this odd term that describes such a common article of clothing."
• Back issues of Playroach (get it...? fine, you do better) found under Kafka's mattress. "These are not naughty postcards from the beach. They are undoubtedly porn, pure and simple. Some of it is quite dark, with animals committing fellatio and girl-on-girl action... It's quite unpleasant."
• Adrian Tomine designed a totebag for the Strand. (Powell's totebag, please. Craig Thompson? Nicole Georges? Somebody get on it.)
• New York Magazine has a preview of Michel Gondry's new comic.
• As reported by Paul Constant up at Slog, hip-yet-broke poet/novelist Tao Lin is selling shares of his new novel. (Am I in trouble if I never made it past pg. 5 of Eeeee Eeee Eee? Also, Mikey is cheaper.)
• Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn died on Sunday, and Christopher Hitchens finds something nice to say: "The simplest way of phrasing it is to say that Solzhenitsyn lived 'as if.' Barely deigning to notice the sniggering, pick-nose bullies who followed him and harassed him, he carried on "as if" he were a free citizen, 'as if' he had the right to study his own country's history, 'as if' there were such a thing as human dignity."
• Lit Blogger Mark Sarvas stopped compulsively underlining passages in James Wood's new book long enough to note that the real crisis in book reviewing is that "embarrassing ledes like this one are allowed to run." I was inclined to disagree (snark, snark)--but then this was the very next story I ran across. So. Nevermind. Carry on, Sarvas.
• And finally, the book this week I am determined to finally read: Joseph O'Neill's Netherland. Is it as great as everyone says it is?
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!