Alice Kaplan’s “biography” of Albert Camus’s existential cult classic, Looking for The Stranger, made quite the debut this past week. Drawing praise from across the web and the subject of hefty reviews in several major publications (this post doesn’t even include one from Le Monde and the book’s second profile by Publishers Weekly), Looking for The Stranger’s prescience stems in part from its subject’s applicability to contemporary conversations about race and class, and inpart from Kaplan’s ability to turn the standard biography on its head, focusing on the historical circumstances that allowed Camus to produce a mass-market paperback—despite personal turmoil, the threat of censorship, and publishing industry fallout—which went on to sell six-million copies to date, rather than tracing an overly-baked life narrative of the author. Kaplan’s abilities as a storyteller are often acclaimed, so nothing new there, but here follow some fresh critical lauds below! From John Williams at the New York Times: To this new project, Kaplan brings equally honed skills as a historian, literary critic, and biographer. . . . In an epilogue, Ms. Kaplan goes a step further and looks for the identity of the Arab involved in the real-life altercation that inspired the novel’s pivotal scene. What she learns about him . . .
Out of the Wreck I Rise, edited by Neil Steinberg and Sara Bader, positions itself, as its subtitle indicates, “A Literary Companion to Recovery.” The poetics of recovery isn’t really a field (and, if we’re going by Aristotle, poetics is a system, not a discipline), but this volume comes close to illuminating a relationship between creativity and the drive to reclaim possession of one’s life. This past week, John Williams previewed the anthology for the New York Times Book Review, and coeditor Neil Steinberg posted a playlist at Largehearted Boy for some ambient inspiration that “speaks to what the book is about.” From the September 2, 2016, issue of the New York Times Book Review: “Alcoholics Anonymous,” commonly referred to as the Big Book, helped to establish the 12-step program. It’s been an indispensable guide for millions since it was published in 1939. A new, very different kind of book, “Out of the Wreck I Rise: A Literary Companion to Recovery,” by Neil Steinberg and Sara Bader, aims to be a complementary comfort. An anthology of excerpts about addiction and recovery, the book includes many names you’d expect to see on the subject: John Cheever, John Berryman, Raymond Carver. Maybe you wouldn’t . . .
It’s our second congrats this week to a University of Chicago Press author for making the Politico 50, a “guide to the thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics in 2016.” This time it’s Michael Tesler, author of Post-Racial or Most-Racial?: Race and Politics in the Obama Era, at #11, for his contribution to our understanding of “how white racism has long shaped American politics.” As Politico writes: There may be no single symbol of black progress more powerful than an African-American in the White House, and Tesler, author of this year’s Post-Racial or Most-Racial?: Race and Politics in the Obama Era, argues that Barack Obama’s 2008 election triggered a new racialized backlash. Tesler draws a distinction between “racial conservatives,” who are more likely to agree with stereotypes like the notion that black people are poorer than white people because of lack of effort, and “racial liberals.” Racial conservatism, Tesler’s work shows, has become a stronger predictor for identifying as Republican, and it spiked with Obama’s election. Over the past year, a steady stream of studies, polls and analyses—including Tesler’s own findings—appear to bear out that theory and show how it’s shaping the 2016 campaign; they chart a correlation between racial resentment and . . .