What is the true point of a bookish life? Note I write “point,” not “goal.” The bookish life can have no goal: It is all means and no end. The point, I should say, is not to become immensely knowledgeable or clever, and certainly not to become learned. Montaigne, who more than five centuries ago established the modern essay, grasped the point when he wrote, “I may be a man of fairly wide reading, but I retain nothing.” Retention of everything one reads, along with being mentally impossible, would only crowd and ultimately cramp one’s mind.
“Latin’s revival, among young teachers on the one hand and nostalgic nationalists on the other, appears to flourish on two opposing ends. But while they may seem to be separate, the two are inexorably and uneasily linked through the history of white men’s appropriation of Latin as a marker of superiority.”
Board chair Jon West-Bey, who developed the institution based on his graduate thesis: “We wanted to put programs before space. We didn’t want to be the type of place where we said, ‘If we build it, they’ll come.’ It was more, ‘We’ll come to you.'”
I thought it’d be tough. I thought it’d be hard work. But I also thought I’d be able to do it. I mean, I read quickly. But it was a huge ask. It did just swallow up my year. I got to a point where I was actually dreaming mash-ups of the books I was reading. I would wake up in the morning and go, “Did that happen?”
Democracy shamocracy, right? “Sweet Fruit, Sour Land by Rebecca Ley is the winner of the 2018 Not the Booker Prize. Our three judges have taken the brave decision to overrule the public vote and put their weight behind this dark dystopian novel in the place of Ariel Kahn’s optimistic and gentle Raising Sparks.”
Sarah Schulman’s new book is about people trying to figure out whom to blame, and a state where corruption at the very top leeches into every relationship. Where does her protagonist find some reality? In AA meetings. “The sheer humanity of people being able to admit their flaws in a world in which no one will admit their flaws is illuminating.”
The Man Booker Prize short-listed authors explain, at least a little, how their brains work.
It’s a mystery – one that Susan Orlean, author of the new The Library Book, says may never be solved. But she started out wanting to write about the day-to-day life of a city library. “”I liked the idea of doing it in L.A., out of this contrarian idea that people don’t associate libraries with L.A., which made it kind of delectable.
Well, at least not when the book is a new one from Haruki Murakami. There are contests, and there are ghost cats and there’s pasta. “When during a quiz at the Three Lives launch party a woman won a large tote bag containing a bag of pasta and a jar of tomato sauce, she got the biggest cheers of the night.”
The Guadaloupean writer, author of I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem and other books, won The New Academy Prize in Literature, “a new prize established by a group of over 100 Swedish cultural figures as a substitute for this year’s Nobel in Literature, which was not awarded for the first time since 1949 because of a sexual misconduct scandal.”
Ashley Fetters talks with classics scholar Donna Zuckerberg (yes, Mark’s sister) about what the “Red Pill” community — “the corner of the internet dominated by men’s-rights activists, the alt-right, pickup artists, and the sex-eschewing communities known as Men Going Their Own Way” — finds in these ancient Latin books (e.g., Ovid’s Ars Amatoria) and how they misread and misuse the texts.
With a different set of judges each year, it is a fool’s errand to try to guess the eventual winner. So I have always had a simple formula: never judge the books – study the judges.
Daniel Mendelsohn: “While our forebears looked confidently to the text of the Aeneid for answers, today it raises troubling questions. … Two thousand years after its appearance, we still can’t decide if [Virgil’s] masterpiece is a regressive celebration of power as a means of political domination or a craftily coded critique of imperial ideology — a work that still has something useful to tell us.”
Kwame Anthony Appiah, chair of the judges, implicitly blamed editors for the poor quality of some of this year’s submissions while announcing the 2018 shortlist: “We occasionally felt that inside the book we read was a better one, sometimes a thinner one, wildly signalling to be let out.” Fellow judge Val McDermid went further by suggesting modern editors don’t know what they’re doing. “I think,” she said, “young editors coming through are not necessarily getting the kind of training and experience-building apprenticeship that happened when I was starting out.”
Lloyd Alexander, author of the five-volume series The Chronicles of Prydain, was deeply influenced by Sartre; indeed, he was the first to translate Nausea into English. “Despite Alexander’s remarkable role in the history of existentialism, oddly no one has made any connection between that philosophy and his own work” — until Jesse Schotter, here.
The average person “consumes about 34 gigabytes across varied devices each day” — some 100,000 words’ worth of information. “Neither deep reading nor deep thinking can be enhanced by the aptly named ‘chopblock’ of time we are all experiencing, or by 34 gigabytes of anything per day,” Maryanne Wolf argues.
With only one exception, everyone I speak to feels the same: that something has been lost. “A big, big mistake,” says Carmen Callil, co-founder of Virago books and former managing director of Chatto & Windus. “Its USP has gone,” says a leading agent (this despite the fact that he represents some US authors). “This whole fucking thing about us having such a cultural cringe towards America,” says one publisher.
“I’m always more interested in mystery books where ‘whodunit?’ isn’t the biggest question of all. Even if the red herring doesn’t feed into whodunit, because of course it can’t, it feeds into more integral questions: What makes the detective go down that sidetrack? … A bunch of times I’ve started off writing something thinking, ‘This might be the solution’ and then going, ‘This totally can’t be the solution, it doesn’t fit — but I can see why the narrator might want it to be the solution.'”
Most of these new dystopian stories take place in the future, but channel the anger and anxieties of the present, when women and men alike are grappling with shifting gender roles and the messy, continuing aftermath of the MeToo movement. They are landing at a charged and polarizing moment, when a record number of women are getting involved in politics and running for office, and more women are speaking out against sexual assault and harassment.
Growing up with few books in the house was associated with below-average literacy rates, while he presence of around 80 books raised those rates to the mean. Literacy continued to increase with the number of reported books up to around 350, at which point it flattened out.
“The fabled horror magazine that has thrilled and terrified readers since 1979 looked dead and buried last year. But now, just in time for Halloween, Fangoria has crawled out of its own grave in the form of a new quarterly journal with photos so high-gloss that the blood looks wet.”
Hope and its doleful twin, Hopelessness, might be thought of as the co-muses of the modern eco-narrative. Such is the world we’ve created—a world of wounds—that loss is, almost invariably, the nature writer’s subject. The question is how we relate to that loss. Is the glass ninety-five per cent empty or is it five per cent full?
There is no reason why literary translators should not promote their art as an art, as an exercise in making as well as understanding, nor any reason why they should not at least aim for artistic distinction within their own field — even if their art, and their distinction as artists, will always derive from someone else’s work.
The firm’s most recent rankings, published in September, showed that the top publisher on Facebook in August 2018 was not CNN, Fox News, the BBC, or BuzzFeed—but a Manchester, U.K.–based site called LADbible. Fourth was one called Unilad, also based in Manchester. Fifth, London-based tabloid the Daily Mail. Trusted sources, indeed. The New York Times’ John Herrman and Kevin Roose highlighted another NewsWhip list that showed LADbible had three of the 10 most popular stories on Facebook in the first week of September.
“Too much information creates numbness. Then we stop feeling. Then we stop caring. Refugees become mere numbers, anyone who is different becomes a category, an abstraction. It is not a coincidence that all populist movements are essentially against plurality, against diversity. In creating dualistic frameworks and polarising society, they know they can spread numbness faster. The novel matters because it punches little holes in the wall of indifference that surrounds us. Novels have to swim against the tide. And this was never more clear than it is today.”
These stories map an increasingly egalitarian poetry landscape. In place of the traditional gatekeeping system is a supportive, welcoming environment, particularly for marginalized voices. Purveyors of female empowerment and romantic expression like Kaur, Nikita Gill and Yrsa Daley-Ward flourished in this ecosystem. Instagram poets who might not get a second look from the predominantly white literary establishment have risen to prominence on their own. The trend is democratizing, both for writers and readers.
“Studies from experts strongly support both sides. Personal conversations with friends (not experts) vary from indifference, strong supporters and audiobook opposers. … We’re not sure what to believe, so we made a pros and cons list.”
Gillian Slovo writes about why she and the Royal Society of Literature have established the new Christopher Bland Prize, a £10,000 award for a first-time author over age 50.
The industry could have a lot riding on the next 18 months at Barnes and Noble. After years of upheaval and disappointing sales, it’s not clear whether Barnes and Noble can continue as a viable, if diminished, retail alternative to Amazon, or if, as our anonymous curmudgeon suggests, its time to start planning a funeral.
In a feature introducing The Atlantic‘s new daily online mini-crossword, Adrienne LaFrance looks back to the pearl-clutching that accompanied the appearance, and rapid popularity, of crossword puzzles in newspapers just over a century ago. ” Doctors warned of the dreaded ‘crossword-puzzle headache.’ … Puzzles were banned in courthouses, where distracted public officials played on the job. … Newspapers reported an uptick of women divorcing puzzle-obsessed husbands. … People worried that puzzles would replace literature, that the utility of three-letter words — gnu! emu! eel! — would rewire people’s brains.”