I fell in love with the BBC Radio 4 program “Desert Island Discs” years ago while living in Scotland, a place that felt a little like a desert island to me, on my own in an unfamiliar place really for the first time. The premise of the show, which first aired in 1942, is that a celebrity guest selects eight records, together with a book and a luxury item, that he or she would most wish to have if marooned on a desert island.
My ideal man doesn’t exist. This, at least, is what I had to conclude after visiting alikewise.com, the much-ballyhooed new site for “dating by the book,” which purports to match people based on their taste in literature. Matt Sherman, one of the site’s founders, told the AP that the idea came to him after he broke up with a girlfriend a few years ago.
A few years ago, the Mexican literary magazine Letras Libres asked me to write an essay about major trends in the last decade of American literature. The more I thought about what such trends might be, the less convinced I became that there even was such a thing as “American literature” anymore. The books that had interested me most in the late 1990s and early 2000s were by writers who were emigrants or members of minority ethnic groups: Ha Jin, Jhumpa Lahiri, Edwidge Danticat, Nathan Englander.
Black Swan Green By David Mitchell (Random House, 294 pp., $23.95) I. 'I liked it." Is there anything less interesting to say about a book? Every negative piece is negative in its own way: we remember with a grim chuckle Mark Twain's enumeration of James Fenimore Cooper's literary offenses ("There have been daring people in the world who claimed that Cooper could write English, but they are all dead now"), or Nabokov's epistolary rebuke of Edmund Wilson ("A patient confidant of his long and hopeless infatuation with the Russian language, I have always done my best to explain to him his mistake