1. “It’s shameful that such an influential writer is still largely unknown. Penelope Mortimer deserves to be a household name. On top of her contributions to fiction and journalism, the memoirs are a chronicle of a woman struggling, above all, to create.”

    — "The Neglected Penelope Mortimer Was a Novelist Ahead of Her Time" by Jessica Ferri at The Daily Beast

    Tired of reading Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Betty Friedan? Maybe it’s about time you picked up some Penelope Mortimer.

  2. "Perfect worlds do not exist."


     [T]his slim volume from Soviet journalist and novelist Vasily Grossman is equal parts travelogue, memoir, and religious meditation. As editor Robert Chandler notes, the context of this 1962 mini-memoir is significant: Grossman’s assignment in Armenia came soon after his two most important novels were stymied by censors and before he was diagnosed with cancer. As such, there is a vulnerability to the narration of An Armenian Sketchbook. Grossman writes not knowing what, if anything, his legacy as a writer will be—and suspecting that, as his health is failing him, he does not have much time left to secure that legacy. So while this “sketchbook” is largely about Armenian life and customs as observed by a literary-minded visitor, it’s also about Grossman himself. Chatty observations on his own shortcomings as a translator and the vagaries of his intestines segue seamlessly into somber meditations on the nature of life, religion, and work.

    —Vasily Grossman’s An Armenian Sketchbook went on-sale Tuesday,  above is a write-up in The Daily Beast's “This Week’s Hot Reads.”

  3. The Company They Kept, Volume Two

    She disliked being photographed and usually hated the result. The whitening hair grew thick above a face each year somehow rounder and softer, like a bemused, blue-lidded planet, a touch too large, in any case, for a body that seemed never quite to have reached maturity. In early life the proportions would have been just right. A 1941 snapshot (printed in last winter’s Vassar Bulletin) shows her at Key West, with bicycle, in black French beach togs, beaming straight at the camera: a living doll. 

    The bicycle may have been the same one she pedaled to the local electric company with her monthly bill and Charles Olson’s, who one season rented her house but felt that ‘a Poet mustn’t be asked to do prosaic things like pay bills.’ The story was told not at the Poet’s expense but rather as fingers are crossed for luck—another of her own instinctive, modest, lifelong, impersonations of an ordinary woman, someone who during the day did errands, went to the beach, would perhaps that evening jot a phrase or two inside the nightclub matchbook before returning to the dance floor.

     - James Merrill on Elizabeth Bishop.

    The above are the first two paragraphs from Merrill’s essay on Bishop in The Company They Kept, Volume Two, a collection of twenty-seven accounts of the deep and abiding relationships between many The New York Review of Books contributors and their fellow poets, writers, and artists. Unfortunately we couldn’t find the photograph of Bishop in bathing suit with bike, but if you’re interested in other famous literary friendships, The Daily Beast has made a fun slide show in honor of the book.