“Genius” is a loaded term. Its application usually says more about the person making the judgment than it does about the genius in question. In The Guardian, Sophie Hannah argues that the term isn’t used enough to describe one writer in particular: Agatha Christie. You could also read Daniel Friedman on the terrible secret of all crime fiction.
"The blackly comic energy of Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts—its caustic ebullience, the strange buoyancy of its suffering—is a remarkably American achievement, a kind of death-dance capered on the corpse of a vividly rendered early 1930s Manhattan." On Miss Lonelyhearts, the darkest American masterpiece.
“As they were actual animals, rather than anthropomorphized personality traits intended to teach moral lessons, the Dog’s words were just a bunch of barking. The Goat bolted across the road, ending up on the ridge behind the Baker place. The Goat’s owner then called Animal Control, even though the Dog’s owner knew about the pot plants in the former’s greenhouse, which he had always been cool about, though that may change real soon.” Aesop's lesser fables.
We didn't catch it in time for our big preview, but Kazuo Ishiguro's forthcoming novel The Buried Giant, now has an official U.S. release date of March 2015. The novel is the author's first in 10 years, and his British publisher says it will be about "lost memories, love, revenge and war."
Andrew O'Hagan, whose books have gotten some Booker Prize notice over the years, has a new one out (it's been out in the UK for a while now) called The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe, which, as the title perhaps suggests, is told in the voice of Monroe's Scottish maltese poodle called Maf. Also out this week is Tom Clancy's first new "Jack Ryan" thriller in quite some time, Dead or Alive.