* One of the nice things about an extended leave is it spares us the need to engage with idiocies like Lev Grossman's recent WSJ essay in favor of easy books. The cynic in us assumes that because Grossman has just published a genre novel, he feels compelled to defend its bona fides, lest we take him less seriously than, well, we've always taken Time's book critic. And others have already responded to the more obviously stupid points in his essay (and there are many to choose from). But we're bothered, ultimately, by the naked anti-intellectualism of thing, and by his implication that gonzo sales means something is good. The problem with his "reasoning," of course, is there are plenty of readers who don't mind - even, dare we say it, enjoy a challenging book, those of us who operate under the premise that it's ok if something of lasting value is hard-won, that the difficulty actually contributes to its value. The real bummer is we're actually on record in favor of plot in literary fiction, we don't think it's a dirty word by any stretch. But from that starting point, Grossman - as usual - draws every wrong conclusion.
* On a happier note, The Infinities, the new John Banville novel, has begun receiving plenty of UK press. A copy is en route, we're told. (Reviews of Summertime are also appearing - and it, too, is en route.)
* Imagine our relief that the Telegraph has anointed someone else "the world's most annoying novelist."
* We are among those quoted in David Milofsky's column regarding the future of book blogging.
What is perhaps most striking is that no one is questioning the continuation of book publishing as we know it, despite the wretched financial statements issued by all major publishers and large-scale staff layoffs in New York.
* Building on an earlier post questioning where today's James Joyce might (or might not) be found, htmlgiant proposes a list of 15 towering literary artists who are still alive.
* Exciting news, indeed. Philip Pullman is the latest contributor to the Canongate myth series, taking on none other than Jesus himself.
"Paul was a literary and imaginative genius of the first order who has probably had more influence on the history of the world than any other human being, Jesus certainly included. I believe this is a pity," said Pullman. "The story I tell comes out of the tension within the dual nature of Jesus Christ, but what I do with it is my responsibility alone. Parts of it read like a novel, parts like a history, and parts like a fairy tale; I wanted it to be like that because it is, among other things, a story about how stories become stories."
* Louis Begley's Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters (our next non-fiction to read) is reviewed at Tablet Magazine.
* The journalistic pack instinct is undimmed as Lorrie Moore sucks up most of the available book-related column inches out there. (Here's just one of a dozen possible links.) Not that she doesn't deserve it, mind you - she does. But, in typical MSM fashion, a book many years in the making will receive two months of intense coverage and then disappear from view. Who is served by that? We dare any newspaper to hold their de rigeur Lorrie Moore profile and run it in December.
* The Centaurian goes dark. (Thanks to Dave Lull.)
* Rob Riemen - author of TEV endorsed Nobility of Spirit - can be listened to in this podcast on The Meaning of Words.
* During our absence, the remarkable Harry Ransom Center began its week of Poe Mania, special online content designed to accompany their upcoming Poe exhibit. Check it out.
* And, finally, we've been remiss in not directing you earlier to The Millions, which has undergone a striking facelift.