What We Are Reading Today: ‘Less,’ by Andrew Sean Greer

Updated 21 April 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Less,’ by Andrew Sean Greer

“Less” won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction last week and was a surprising choice because few comic novels have won the prestigious award.

The judges’ citation describes it as “a generous book, musical in its prose and expansive in its structure and range, about growing older and the essential nature of love.”

The book follows Arthur Less, a failed novelist about to turn 50.

When he receives a wedding invitation from his boyfriend of nine years ago, he decides instead to run away from his problems by attending a few half-baked literary events around the world.

He will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself in as a writer-in-residence at a Christian retreat center in Southern India, and have a chance encounter on a desert island in the Arabian Sea.

Andrew Sean Greer began this comic masterpiece as a very serious novel about being gay and aging.

“But after a year, I just couldn’t do it,” he told The Washington Post. “It sounds strange but what I was writing about was so sad to me that I thought the only way to write about this was to make it a funny story.”


What We Are Reading Today: The Tale of Genji, A Visual Companion

Updated 17 October 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: The Tale of Genji, A Visual Companion

  • Melissa McCormick provides a unique companion to Murasaki’s tale with the oldest dated set of Genji illustrations known to exist

Book Title:  The Tale of Genji, A Visual Companion

Author: Melissa McCormick

 

Written in the 11th century by the Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji is a masterpiece of prose and poetry that is widely considered the world’s first novel. Melissa McCormick provides a unique companion to Murasaki’s tale that combines discussions of all 54 of its chapters with paintings and calligraphy from the Genji Album (1510) in the Harvard Art Museums, the oldest dated set of Genji illustrations known to exist.

In this book, the album’s colorful painting and calligraphy leaves are fully reproduced for the first time, followed by McCormick’s insightful essays that analyze the Genji story and the album’s unique combinations of word and image. 

This stunning compendium also includes English translations and Japanese transcriptions of the album’s calligraphy, enabling a holistic experience of the work for readers today. In an introduction to the volume, McCormick tells the fascinating stories of the individuals who created the Genji Album in the sixteenth century, from the famous court painter who executed the paintings and the aristocrats who brushed the calligraphy to the work’s warrior patrons and the poet-scholars who acted as their intermediaries.

Beautifully illustrated, this book serves as an invaluable guide for readers interested in The Tale of Genji, Japanese literature, and the captivating visual world of Japan’s most celebrated work of fiction.