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Book News: Shakespeare Was A Tax Evader And Food Hoarder, Researchers Say

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Research from scholars at Aberystwyth University in the U.K. suggests that William Shakespeare was prosecuted for evading taxes and for hoarding grain during a famine and then reselling it at inflated prices. Jayne Archer, A co-author of the study, told The Sunday Times [paywall protected] that "there was another side to Shakespeare besides the brilliant playwright — as a ruthless businessman who did all he could to avoid taxes, maximise profits at others' expense and exploit the vulnerable — while also writing plays about their plight to entertain them." As many have pointed out, this gives new meaning to those lines from Shakespeare's Coriolanus: "They ne'er cared for us yet: suffer us to famish, and their store-houses crammed with grain."
  • A new biography of Derrida asks, "What would a biography of Jacques Derrida have to look like to be a Derridean biography?" File under: questions best left unanswered.
  • Alexander Nazaryan writes about Thomas Pynchon's novel V. for The New Yorker: "I advocate surrender to Pynchon; letting your mind toss on the wild currents of his language is a lot more enjoyable than treating his novels like puzzles, wondering where the pieces fit: Who is Rachel Owlglass? Why are we in Egypt?"
  • Proust's notebooks capture his exacting self-editing process.
  • Half of a Yellow Sun author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie complained about V.S. Naipaul to the London Evening Standard: "I've become very tired of this nonsense where he's supposed to be the best writer in the world. ... God bless him, I wish him well, but I think that just because you're an old man who's nasty doesn't mean that we shouldn't actually take your work apart." Her words weren't quite as cutting as those of Derek Walcott in his poem "The Mongoose": "I have been bitten, I must avoid infection/Or else I'll be as dead as Naipaul's fiction."

The Best Books Coming Out This Week:

  • Kate Atkinson's Life After Life is the story of the many lives of Ursula Todd, an Englishwoman who dies in dozens of ways in this inventive novel. It also made NPR's Scott Simon cry.
  • James Salter, as Katie Roiphe recently pointed out in Slate, is a literary powerhouse who very few people have heard of. His latest novel, All That Is, about a WWII veteran who returns home, just might fix that.
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