“The novel matters because and so on. By which I mean that I’ve come to believe that all the arts are about time, but that the novel in particular is about the and-so-on of things, continuance and continuity, the continuum. It’s a form, too, very interested in the workings of society, so it tells us about how we’re living, who we’re living with, and where we are in the endless social structural cycle that eventually gets called history.”
“Saunders is the second American in a row to win the Booker prize, after last year’s winner Paul Beatty. Saunders’ win falls four years after eligibility rules were changed to allow writers of any nationality writing in the English language and published in the UK. There has been fierce criticism of the rule change.”
“Some of these books are concise introductions to topics you might later wish to pursue in greater depth: Modern India, say, or Shakespeare’s Tragedies. Others, like Teeth, contain pretty much everything the average layperson would ever want or need to know. All of them, however, take their Very Short commitment seriously. The length of each book is fixed at thirty-five thousand words, or roughly a hundred and twenty pages. … Never mind that the Roman Empire got some four thousand pages from Edward Gibbon, and that was just to chronicle its demise; here it gets the same space as Circadian Rhythms, Folk Music, and Fungi.”
In fact, Homer’s version is literally Wisdom personified – which is to say that it’s Athena, goddess of wisdom, appearing to Telemachus in the form of a man named Mentor. Harvard classicist Gregory Nagy talks to The Atlantic about how Homer’s Mentor is still relevant today.
“The skills you learn in the humanities are exactly the skills you use in a job search. The humanities teach students to understand the different rules and expectations that govern different genres, to examine social cues and rituals, to think about the audience for and reception of different kinds of communications. In short, they teach students how to apply for the kinds of jobs students will be looking for after college.”
“Part of me fears the parameters that are being placed on writers whose voices have not traditionally been heard, whether it’s to be “authentic” (however we decide to define it), to be representative of their culture or to be the interpreter for a group of readers that’s assumed to be a mainstream/white readership.”
For instance, take the story of St. Louis’ Central Library, which was, for four years, across the street from a large homeless shelter that provided nothing but beds for the night, turning the library into a de facto shelter during the day. “It’s an extremely difficult and complex problem, balancing the safety of the library on the one hand with the acknowledgment on the other that the homeless and marginalized are real patrons, too.”
Why Iraq for a speculative fiction future? Well, it’s obvious: “Baghdad is where algebra, the decimal point, and the first method to calculate the radius of the Earth were invented in ancient times — and Iraq, Blasim feels, is a rightful heir to the sci-fi tradition.”
There’s a list, but first … “In publishing, just as in the movie business, there are men we warn women not to work with, not to be alone with, not to send work to. The burden has always been placed on women to keep each other and ourselves safe—men don’t take accountability for their actions, and why should they? After all, they aren’t held accountable for those same actions (but sometimes their victims are). This is called rape culture.”
And the UK’s The Observer isn’t thrilled with the list: “When Lola Young, as chair, summarised the shortlist as ‘unique and intrepid books that collectively push against the borders of convention,’ she articulated a mission statement for a final session that promises to be an excruciating visit to the third circle of a literary critical inferno.”
The authors of a report on diversity in the genre are the owners of the U.S.’s only romance-focused store, and they love the genre. But the numbers are bad – in some cases, abysmal. They say: “The traditional romance publishing industry is going to collapse if it doesn’t start hiring authors that reflect the current U.S. population.”
Was it pulled because of its use of the ‘n-word’? That seems to be the case, but the reason is not clear. “Kenny Holloway, vice president of the Biloxi School Board said, ‘There were complaints about it. There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books.'”
One indie bookstore representative wonders what the ever-loving heck: “Even as people seek out the expertise of indie booksellers, they treat Amazon as the default for book links. Bloggers write about shopping local while linking to Amazon. Authors appeal to bookstores for book tours and sales but announce their books on Facebook with Amazon links (yes, even for a book titled How to Find Love in a Bookshop).”
The fairs – and other cultural trading – taught about history beyond the Indian independence struggle. And they were cool: “The Soviet Book Exhibition would cram a vast ground in the center of town with stalls selling books and magazines, for all ages, in English and various Indian languages. Sovietland magazine was published in 13 Indian languages. It carried pictures of Soviet life, of collective farming, and Indo-Soviet collaborations on projects like the Bhilai steel plant. Soviet books were inexpensive and beautifully produced on glossy art paper.”
More than 70 authors, including Pulitzer prize winners Jennifer Egan and Louise Glück, have come to the defence of the editor and poet Jill Bialosky after she was accused of plagiarism, saying that Bialosky’s “inadvertent repetition of biographical boilerplate was not an egregious theft intentionally performed”.
“In a statement to staff issued on Thursday, Hachette Book Group said it had ‘terminated’ the imprint. A joint venture between the Weinstein Company and the Hachette-owned publisher Perseus, Weinstein Books released around 10 books a year, with titles ranging from books by media personalities to film tie-ins. It was run by two women: editorial director Amanda Murray and publishing director Georgina Levitt.”
“Tales of language extinction are invariably tragic. But why, exactly? Aka-Bo, like many other extinct languages, did not make a difference to the lives of the vast majority of people. Yet the sense that we lose something valuable when languages die is familiar. Just as familiar, though, is the view that preserving minority languages is a waste of time and resources. I want to attempt to make sense of these conflicting attitudes.”
Invented by a Hungarian in Argentina, re-engineered by an American high school dropout, it created such a sensation when it appeared in a New York department store that the police had to control the crowds. (This even though it sold for the present-day equivalent of $165 each.) Inventory sold out in a flash (and disappeared mysteriously from the factory). And that’s not even the first year.
“‘Books are the best weapons,’ President Emmanuel Macron of France said at the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair, addressing the unifying power of literature and language. ‘Without culture, there is no Europe.’ … Can Dundar, the former editor in chief of the Turkish opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet who faces imprisonment in Turkey, will add to the political theme in a talk about writing in exile; the German author Thomas Wagner and the activist Gerald Hensel will discuss the identity of the new right.”
Otessa Moshfegh: “Upon awakening, I often ask myself, ‘Who am I? Where am I? What am I doing here?’ and from time to time, I’ve felt that the answers were merely memorized responses, and that my reality might be an arbitrary dash of the imagination – believable, sure, but not entirely trustworthy. This specific vulnerability – of the conscious, willful mind – is precisely what Jackson titillates and exacerbates in her stories.”
Amy Grace Loyd, who was Playboy‘s literary editor from 2005 to 2011, writes about how, and why, she convinced some of the English language’s top female authors (along with the likes of Junot Díaz, Walter Mosley, and Sherman Alexie) to write for the magazine.
“[Matt] Cain, the editor of Attitude magazine [a popular gay-male-oriented title in Britain], said the support for his book – which is on course to be the fastest-funded novel on [crowdfunding platform] Unbound – showed there was a market for a commercial novel about a gay man, even though publishers rejected it as ‘too working class, too 80s, too immersed in pop culture, and too gay’.”
“Something funny has happened in Stockholm over the last three years, a period that has coincided with the Swedish academic Sara Danius becoming chair of the Nobel Committee for Literature, replacing Peter Englund. The Nobel has become, well, fun. It opened up the definition of literature to include 2015 laureate Svetlana Alexievich’s oral histories and 2016 laureate Bob Dylan’s off-kilter folk songs. Kazuo Ishiguro, the 2017 laureate, would appear to be a far more conventional choice—his prevailing theme is memory and he has returned on multiple occasions to World War II.”
“In July, a flock of internet detectives discovered the books. The Travels and Adventures of Little Baron Trump and His Wonderful Dog Bulger was published in 1889, and quickly forgotten thereafter, as was its sequel, Baron Trump’s Marvelous Underground Adventure. They are not timeless, and were quickly overshadowed by more compelling contemporary entries in the fanciful-travel-stories-for-children genre, like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The Wizard of Oz. Their author, lawyer Ingersoll Lockwood, appears in history mostly for his role in a financial tangle that occurred in the aftermath of an elderly woman’s death on the railroad tracks near Philadelphia.”
Si Newhouse seems to have decided that the New Yorker was worth protecting, and that the way to protect it was to get out of the way. Remnick has written that he was left alone to manage the magazine. If it has become more business-savvy, sponsoring festivals and so on in a way that would have embarrassed Mr. Shawn, none of that seems to have diminished the quality or the integrity of the words on the page (or, as Mr. Shawn never could have imagined, on the screen).
Some things work well – Margaret Atwood’s Hag Seed, Jeannette Winterson’s adaptations to the story of The Winter’s Tale (titled The Gap of Time) – but: “In a 2015 New York Times article detailing the Hogarth Shakespeare project, Alexandra Alter wrote that Winterson’s cover was, ‘a promising start to an ambitious new series from Hogarth, which has assembled an all-star roster of stylistically diverse writers to translate Shakespeare’s timeless plays into prose.’ As the series has gained more traction, it is hard not to notice the word ‘stylistically’ here.”
Children’s literature scholar Philip Nel has published many books about Theodore Seuss Geisel, including August’s Was the Cat in the Hat Black? “He did great anti-racist work … and he did work that was racist,” Nel says. “It was the same person, the same body of work, done at the same time.”
Writers including N.K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor – whose 2010 postapocalyptic Who Fears Death is being turned into a series on HBO – and, earlier, Octavia Butler and Ben Okri, have long been turning to traditions well outside of medieval Europe for their speculative fiction books, but now “there’s an enormous appetite for fantasy stories that feature diverse characters and settings and tackle contemporary social issues.”
You want to read about fighting against despotic leaders who have almost total spy control over their populations, right? Right? Or maybe you just want to read Richard III again. You’ll find all of that here.
Railway books, obviously.