Wayward sourcing of the truth

While re-reading David Copperfield recently, I came across a turn of phrase that seemed oddly familiar. It’s in a line of dialogue from the saintly Agnes, as she explains to David that by sheer goodness she hopes to be able to save her alcoholic father from the malign influence of Uriah Heep:

“I hope that real love and truth are stronger in the end than any evil or misfortune in the world.”

I found myself idly wondering: Could this be the source of Václav Havel’s famous revolutionary motto, “Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred”? Was Havel a big Dickens fan?

Well, no. I mean, maybe he liked Dickens, but inconveniently, I am reminded, upon searching the archives at the Václav Havel Library, that in 1999, Havel himself traced the origin of the phrase to Jan Hus, who wrote, “Truth prevails over all,” shortly before being burned at the stake. Who knew that Agnes was so thorough in her study of medieval Czech church history…


The Wall Street Journal asked me to contribute to “Who Read What in 2014,” a compilation of people’s favorites books published this past year, and I named Phil Klay’s Redeployment, Ben Lerner’s 10:04, and Damon Galgut’s Arctic Summer.

Review of Lee’s “Penelope Fitzgerald”

My review of Hermione Lee’s biography of Penelope Fitzgerald appears in the January 2015 issue of Harper’s, which should be showing up in subscribers’ snailmailboxes imminently, and appear on newsstands in a week or so. Herewith, a teaser:

Review of Hermione Lee's Penelope Fitzgerald

Update, 5:30pm: Subscribers can now read the review online.

Meanwhile, in America

And while I’m closing tabs, here are a few scattered notes about the American reception of Necessary Errors

On 12 October 2014, on the website Queer Readers, a blogger named John had some kind words about the novel.

And a review and an interview that were first published some time ago have recently shown up on the internet. “A Leisurely Portrait of Companionship,” a review of the book by Michiel Heyns for the South Africa’s Sunday Independent, first appeared on 2 March 2014. And Rebecca Panovka’s interview with me for the Harvard Book Review was originally published in the spring of 2014.

Errori necessari: le recensioni

A number of reviews have appeared of Errori necessari, the Italian edition of my novel Necessary Errors, and I thought I should enter them into the record here. They’re all very generous, or at least they seem that way to me, wanting as I do to believe that they are and incapable as I am of really understanding Italian. If I’m wrong, please don’t tell me. A few of them are available directly:

Half a dozen more, including reviews in La Repubblica, La Sicilia, and Pagina 99, are available through the website of my Italian publisher, 66th and 2nd.

A chair made out of found wood

An Adirondack chair made out of found wood

Yesterday morning, while out with the dog, I noticed a man collecting and arranging found wood in Prospect Park. By the time we were ready to head back home, the man had made a sort of Adirondack chair and was sitting on it, to try it out. His creation was still there this morning, so I took a photo. He doesn’t seem to have used any tools or any nails. Maybe this is something that everyone on the internet already knows about, but I’d never seen it done before and thought it was ingenious.

And then, since I had the camera, I photographed the dog fetching his plushy donut.


Emily Dickinson and “The Yellow Rose of Texas”

On Sunday, at Pordenone Legge, a book festival in northern Italy, my interviewer, Chiara Valerio, challenged me to tell the audience something about Emily Dickinson (one of her poems has a cameo in Necessary Errors), who, my interviewer said, is currently having a bit of a moment in Italy. Somehow, a minute or two later, I found myself singing an Emily Dickinson poem to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” And quindi, as the Italians say, when I was interviewed on the radio program Fahrenheit a few days later, the host, Loredana Lipperini, decided to ask me for a reprise, audible with all its involuntary tremolo here, if you click on the word “Ascolta.”

Rome, 2014

Bassano del Grappa


I gave a reading at Il Cassero, Bologna's LGBT center, which is housed in an 18th-century salt warehouse

Il Cassero's disco ball

The media library at Il Cassero, Bologna's LGBT center