“The only thing worse than living under a totalitarian Communist regime is outliving one,”—me, reviewing the late East German writer Wolfgang Hilbig’s novel The Interim for the New York Times Book Review, online today.
As it happens, today is also the publication date for a tome celebrating the Book Review’s first 125 years. My rave review of Jhumpa Lahiri’s first book, from 1999, is reprinted in it. My first piece for the Book Review came a year before that, implicating me in 18.4 percent of its history. Or 22.4 percent, if you count from when they reviewed my translation of a biography of Václav Havel. In my own mind, one of the highlights of my career for the review came when I went on and on about Alexander Hamilton’s legs, thereby inspiring Lin-Manuel Miranda to write a musical (though actually, no; in reality I have zero evidence that Miranda ever read my review).
In other news, if you’re willing to donate a penny or a kidney to the journal n+1 this month, you can take the Bookmatch quiz, which will yield a personalized list of reading recommendations, algorithmically channelling the enthusiasms of brilliant friends of mine like A. S. Hamrah, Christine Smallwood, Emily Gould, Astra Taylor, Nikil Saval, and Christian Lorentzen, among others.