Literary Links

Jonathan Franzen and others on how important "likeability" is in fiction.

I hate the concept of likeabilityit gave us two terms of George Bush, whom a plurality of voters wanted to have a beer with, and Facebook. Youd unfriend a lot of people if you knew them as intimately and unsparingly as a good novel would. But not the ones you actually love.

The reading habits of Hilary Mantel:

Sad to say, I do like a bit of action. I get impatient with love; I want fighting. I dont like overrefinement, or to dwell in the heads of vaporous ladies with fine sensibilities. (Though I love Jane Austen because shes so shrewdly practical: you can hear the chink of cash in every paragraph.)

Have you seen Baz Luhrmann'sThe Great Gatsby yet? Here are five English professors on the most recent film adaptation.

Separating the teacher-scholar in me especially one who specializes in American literature and adaptation from the readermoviegoer is tricky. Yes, LuhrmannsGatsbyis dynamic, loud, different, and vibrant. It changes scenes and language, leaves out some, and adds others. Its also brilliant.

Daniel Mendelsohn on the burial of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Greek tragedy.

It was hard not to think of all thisof the Iliad with its grand funereal finale, of the Odyssey strangely pivoting around so many burials, and of course of Antigoneas I followed the story of Tamerlan Tsarnaevs unburied body over the past few weeks. I thought, of course, of canny politicians eyeing the public mood, and of the public to whom those politicians wanted to pander. I thought even more of the protesters who, understandably to be sure, wanted to make clear the distinction between victim and perpetrator, between friend and foe, by threatening to strip from the enemy what they saw as the prerogatives of the friend: humane treatment in death. The protesters who wanted, like Creon, not only to deny those prerogatives to an enemy but to strip them away again should anyone else grant themto unbury the body. I thought of Martha Mullen, a Christian, who insisted that the Muslim Tsarnaev, accused of heinous atrocities against innocent citizens, be buried just as a loved one might deserve to be buried, because she honored the religious precept that demands that we see all humans as brothers, whatever the evil they have done.


Anthony Domestico is Chair of the Literature Department at Purchase College, and a frequent contributor to Commonweal. His book Poetry and Theology in the Modernist Period is available from Johns Hopkins University Press.

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