Yep. They’re more likely than Gen-X and Boomers – and way more likely than the Silent Generation – to visit the library. Maybe this is why? “Due in large part to libraries’ egalitarian nature, their events, teach-ins, and classes are free and open, making them natural hubs for underemployed millennials seeking skills to break out of their parents’ homes.” Also, of course, the books are free.
The literary culture of al-Andalus, Arab-ruled Spain in the Middle Ages, was as splendid as its architecture – and much of the era’s poetry was destroyed when the Inquisition burned the library at Granada in 1499. But there were Jewish Andalusian writers in the 10th and 11th centuries who adopted the poetic forms and subjects used by their Arab colleagues, and much of that work survives. Benjamin Ramm tells us about the most admired of these writers and offers samples of their verse.
Book clubs are turning their focus to nonfiction and political fiction. “Reading groups have long served as spaces for kindred spirits to gather and talk their way through weighty issues; they also skew female, older, and educated — a prime ‘resistance’ cohort. It is hard to overstate how thoroughly the anti-Trump movement is driven by the energy of women in general.”
Some other dictionaries have had the word before, but the Oxford English Dictionary has just admitted it. The definition? “a genus of tropical weevils (family Curculionidae) native to South America and typically found on or near palm trees.”
Sure, “the wonderful thing about the English language is its sponge-like ability to absorb, use and discard un-English verbiage and still be vitally itself.” But wait! Americanisms invading British English means “Britain, and young Britain in particular, has handed over ‘control of its culture and vocabulary to Washington, New York and Los Angeles.’ It is, Engel argues, ‘self-imposed serfdom.'”
“One core property of human languages is known as duality of patterning: meaningful linguistic units (such as words) break down into smaller meaningless units (sounds), so that the words sap, pass, and asp involve different combinations of the same sounds, even though their meanings are completely unrelated. …Try inventing a lexicon of tens of thousands of distinct noises, all of which are easily distinguished, and you will probably find yourself wishing you could simply re-use a few snippets of sound in varying arrangements.” But there’s a language that does manage without duality of patterning: it developed on its own, relatively recently, in the Negev Desert.
The Chinese government has kept the writer imprisoned for much of his adult life. “At 61 years old, Liu is perhaps known best for his role in the 1989 student-led protests in Tiananmen Square, in which hundreds of demonstrators were killed while demanding democratic reform in China. In addition to delivering passionate speeches, Liu and his colleagues organized a three-day hunger strike and helped to negotiate the peaceful withdraw of thousands of student protesters, in turn saving countless lives.”
“An Irish former trade association head, a German lawyer and a native-born business executive, all residents of Washington and not an author among them, decide to create a museum dedicated to American writers. In Chicago, where two of them have never lived. … The American Writers Museum lacks a resident curator. And a permanent collection of artifacts, the stuff that generally creates a museum.” For that matter, it lacks a permanent building. Karen Heller meets the three people who founded this museum and finds out what on earth they’re thinking.
The 1919 novel about a young German man rebelling and trying to find himself – and then going to war – resonates strongly. “In Korea it has attained such cultural importance that critic Lee Dong-jin, host of the Red Book Room podcast, can make this pronouncement: ‘There are two kinds of people: those who read Demian, and those who don’t.’ Given the enduring presence of the book on their country’s school curricula, most Koreans fall into the former category.”
Charlotte Brontë was facing two crises: Her father’s health was in trouble, and she had for years been in love with a married, and uninterested, man. “The unstated fantasy driving the writing of Jane Eyre, which she began drafting nine months later, was in all likelihood to create a novel of romantic love that would achieve—through imagination—the fantasy fulfillment of an adulterous passion that was never to be hers. It would be a letter to him. At least in a novel, Brontë could have the heroine voice her own feelings, addressing them not to Heger but to the fictional Fairfax Rochester.”
Seriously though, think of The Iliad. “Our cultural anxiety about audiobooks may have deeper roots in media and educational history, dating as far back as the beginning of the Enlightenment period, when the West made a general shift towards the privileging of sight over the other senses. After all, oral storytelling predates print and writing by thousands of years.”
Beverly Jenkins’ books teach the history between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement – almost all with romance as the focus. But she’s a little tired of the miscategorization of her books. She says, “African-American is not a genre! When they put us on a separate shelf, it cuts down on discoverability for people who may be white and looking for a good book. So when people say, ‘I don’t know if I can relate to that,’ I think, ‘But you relate to werewolves and vampires and shape-shifters and all kinds of other craziness. Why can’t you relate to people who are a different race?’”
Her book The Chronology of Water ends with an interview with her editor Rhonda Hughes, and here’s why: “What you want is an editor who is dying to go with you into your material, to ride the waves, to dive down or kick up, to swim the waters of your imagination. The interview was a chance to show readers that no book happens without collaboration. All books take many mammals and I count my lucky stars I crossed stardust paths with Rhonda.”
Of course, LGBT lit goes back way farther than 1997, but here’s a sampler from the NYT in honor of Pride Month.
Well, there’s actually a lot to talk about. Or create. “Sci-fi lets you look at a society where things are done in other ways; ways too complicated to expound on in an essay. How could you generate a superficially gender-equal, godless society and then expose its failures? It is just too complex.”
The original readers are fully integrated in adult life now; what did the series teach them? “A 2014 study found that teenagers who identified with Harry displayed more tolerance towards refugees, immigrants and LGBTQ people. In 2016, another study found that Harry Potter readers were less likely to vote for the then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.”
Joe Berkowitz: “Picture someone practicing for a pun competition. It’s the saddest Rocky training montage of all, isn’t it? In my case, the image entails a man firmly in his midthirties, sitting alone in his bedroom with the door shut, making puns about colors. (‘Is having the blues what made Matthew Perry wrinkle?’) The thought of my dead relatives and pets looking down from another plane of existence as I do this is mortifying.”
“Though hardly anyone knows it, the first person ever to attach their name to a poetic composition is not a mystery. Enheduanna was born more than 4,200 years ago and became the high priestess of a temple in what we now call southern Iraq. She wrote poems, edited hymnals, and may have taught other women at the temple how to write. Archaeologists discovered her in the 1920s and her works were published in English beginning in the 1960s. Yet, rarely if ever does she appear in history textbooks.”
“[There’s] a national movement to turn K-12 librarians into indispensable digital mavens who can help classroom teachers craft tech-savvy lesson plans, teach kids to think critically about online research, and remake libraries into lively, high-tech hubs of collaborative learning – while still helping kids get books.”
Eliza McGraw tells the story of the Pack Horse Library, a WPA program that served the isolated, book-starved towns of the eastern Kentucky mountains.
José Eduardo Agualusa and translator Daniel Hahn share the International Dublin Literary Award 2017 for A General Theory of Oblivion, which was a finalist for this year’s Man Booker International Prize. Candidates for the IDLA are nominated by librarians and library readers all over the world.
“Reading historical fiction not only puts our current events into a historical context, but also helps us understand and imagine and empathize with what people lived through in other times and places. It reminds us that other people, ordinary people, real people, have lived and survived and fallen in love, but also, died in these times of political turmoil before us.”
Anjum Hasan looks at the phenomenon of “minor-character elaboration” – from Jean Rhys’s The Wide Sargasso Sea (the story of Jane Eyre‘s madwoman in the attic) to Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad (how Ulysses’s wife and queen passed the twenty years waiting for his return) and onward. (Hasan also includes Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, though we think that wasn’t the same thing.)
Chris Townsend: “If we really believe that something is interesting, then surely its interestingness should be self-evident. Must it really be flagged up, in a flagrantly unsophisticated way? I wouldn’t write that I merely liked something, nor that a thing holds intellectual appeal to me, at least not without validating that statement. Yet, ‘interesting’ often sneaks by without making a case for itself. And once you start seeing it in your own work, you notice it everywhere. Interesting, despite its insufficiency as an autonomous unit, has a tenacious hold on writing and on everyday speech.”
Interestingly, governments make little fuss about nationality when they hand out money to the interactive industries: various federal and provincial tax credits – and even some grants – are available to any company as long as the jobs go to Canadian workers and Canadian consumers have access to the content thus created. There it’s all about employment; on the publishing side, it’s all about “telling Canadian stories to Canadians.”
“More than a novel, this book wants to be an offering. It isn’t concerned with the conventional task (or power) of fiction to evoke the texture and drama of consciousness. Instead, it acts like a companion piece to Roy’s political writings—collected in books such as The Algebra of Infinite Justice (2001) and Walking With the Comrades (2011). It tours India’s fault lines, as Roy has, from the brutal suppression of tribal populations to the 2002 pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat.”
And no, it wasn’t “diversity.” Nope – it’s a system of how comic books are sold, “a system that rewards the status quo, instead of taking risks and breaking new ground.”
It all began with a conversation with his daughter about craft. “It doesn’t just happen?’ he asked. I clenched my fingers into my palms. ‘No,’ I told him. ‘I don’t just create something in one sitting.’ Finally, I told him that if he tried to read, he’d understand better.”
Translator Jessica Cohen, who along with author David Grossman just won the Man Booker International Prize for A Horse Walks Into a Bar: “Obviously if you have to explain something, it’s not funny. There were some cases like that where I managed to come up with a kind of equivalent. Some things we just had to drop.”
Why? Because novels are about interiority. “One of the great fights of the 21st century will be the fight for privacy and self-ownership, which is also, to my mind, the struggle for literature as distinct from the dark babble of social media. Writers thrive on privacy, not on Twitter, and so do readers when the lights are low.”