Monday morning blether

January 25, 2010 | No Comments

Here’s some of the current blethering about books….

For the first time in sixty years, the anonymous “Poe Toaster” failed to turn up at Edgar Allen Poe’s grave in Baltimore on Poe’s birthday to leave his / her customary roses and cognac. Has a Baltimore tradition come to an end, or is there a simpler explanation?
Manufacturers of e-book readers, including market leader Amazon’s Kindle, are probably quaking in their boots this week, awaiting the launch of a new Apple product (or products), supposedly known as the “Tablet” this Wednesday 27th. Will Steve Jobs, who, notoriously, once said, “people don’t read anymore…”, nevertheless deliver a device combining the functions of an I-phone, laptop, and e-reader?
In a recent issue of The New Yorker, Daniel Mendelson gives a wonderfully smart and succinct account of the challenges of writing a memoir, in his essay-review of Ben Yagoda’s new book, Memoir: A History, entitled, “But Enough About Me.” His discussion around the issue of mendacity is an articulate analysis of readers’ current love/hate relationship with the current plethora of confessional memoirs. “The truth we seek from novels,” he writes, “is different from the truth we seek from memoirs. Novels, you might say, represent a “truth” about life, whereas memoirs and non-fiction accounts represent the “truth” about specific things that have happened. … When readers defended Frey on the ground that his book (A Millions Little Pieces)… had provided them with the genuine uplift they were looking for, they were really defending fiction: an uplifting entertainment that can tell truths but cannot tell the truth.”
And finally, we are, you may have noticed, in the thick of award season, and yesterday the National Book Critics Circle released its nominees for best books of 2009. Winners will be announced in March. The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing went to Joan Acocela, possibly best known for her reviews of dance: read her essay about what critics do, or check out her review of NBCC fiction nominee Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.