“There are songs in every chapter of Ordinary People, as there are songs in every life, dancing songs, driving songs, cleaning songs, talking and drinking and thinking songs....This is a book to be read and heard at the same time, then listened to again in pure sound, bringing the characters and their world back to you on the replay. Music is memory. It reminds us who we are.”—Diana Evans, whose playlist for her latest novel, Ordinary People, includes Q-Tip, Mariah Carey, Isaac Hayes, Amy Winehouse, Jill Scott, and the titular song by John Legend, which, she says, “contain[s] a beautifully accurate account of the conflicting phases of love” (Largehearted Boy)

Zadie Smith +++

“I really don’t have a voice. I’m a writer for precisely that reason. My identity is just not clear to me….I’ve always felt that way, since childhood. The most important thing for me in my writing is to have a great variety….In fiction I get to be inauthentic and schizophrenic, and that’s a great pleasure to me.”—Zadie Smith in conversation with David Remick at the 19th annual New Yorker Festival


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"Matilda demonstrates that it’s possible for anyone, no matter how small and powerless they feel, to defeat the Trunchbulls in their own lives—a message that feels even more relevant today than it did 30 years ago.”—Bernie Hall, marketing director of the Roald Dahl Story Company, upholders of the storied author’s copyrights and trademarks. To honor the 30th anniversary of Matilda, the foundation commissioned a statue of the spunky schoolgirl confronting the contemporary figure most worthy of a dressing down, as voted by the British public. (CNN)


“Right now it feels like winning the golden ticket, except that no one is asking me to run a chocolate factory.”—Kelly Link, whose boundary-pushing fantasy and speculative fictions earned the author a 2018 MacArthur Fellowship worth $625,000, a sum greater than the annual earnings of Small Beer Press, the independent publishing house she runs with husband Gavin Grant. “If we made that much in profit, we would have to change our name to Slightly Larger Beer Press,” she notes. (Washington Post)

Murakami +++

“So, I think if you’re a fiction writer and you’re too intelligent, you cannot write. But if you are stupid, you cannot write. You have to find your position in between. Not too intelligent and not too stupid. This is very difficult.”—Haruki Murakami in conversation with Deborah Treisman at the New Yorker Festival

Megan Labrise is a staff writer and the co-host of the Kirkus podcast, Fully Booked. The photo of Zadie Smith above and of Haruki Murakami in conversation with Deborah Treisman, both images from the New Yorker Festival, are by Getty Images.