African And Black Writers Need To Liberate Themselves From “Mental Tyranny”, Says Ben Okri

Ben-Okri-we need no instruction

The Nigerian novelist argues that “black and African writers are read for their novels about slavery, colonialism, poverty, civil wars, imprisonment, female circumcision – in short, for subjects that reflect the troubles of Africa and black people as perceived by the rest of the world. They are defined by their subjects. The black and African writer is expected to write about certain things, and if they don’t they are seen as irrelevant.”

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African And Black Writers Need No Instructions From Ben Okri On Liberating Their Minds And Their Subject Matter

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Somali-American literary scholar Sofia Samatar: “It’s beyond depressing to hear a writer of Okri’s stature, who himself writes powerfully about overwhelming subjects, board this broken-down train. … If, as Okri insists, ‘we must not let anyone define what we write’, why should black and African writers listen to Ben Okri? The essay’s demands and commands make it impossible to read as the expression of a quest for freedom.”

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Annie Proulx Wishes She’d Never Written “Brokeback Mountain”

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“I wish I’d never written the story. It’s just been the cause of hassle and problems and irritation since the film came out. … One of the reasons we keep the gates locked here is that a lot of men have decided that the story should have had a happy ending. They can’t bear the way it ends – they just can’t stand it.”

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Hilary Mantel Writes About Grief

Henry Peach Robinson's Fading Away, 1858.

“Grief is like fear in the way it gnaws the gut. Your mind is on a short tether, turning round and round. You fear to focus on your grief but cannot concentrate on anything else. You look with incredulity at those going about their ordinary lives. … Your former life still seems to exist, but you can’t get back to it; there is a glimpse in dreams of those peacock lawns and fountains, but you’re fenced out, and each morning you wake up to the loss over again.”

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“Literally” And “Awesome” Aren’t Destroying English, Steven Pinker Reassures Us

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In a Q&A, the cognitive scientist and linguist talks about rules of usage (and lack of them), the usefulness of emojis and italics, and his grammar feud with The New Yorker‘s Nathan Heller. He even explains the psychology that keeps grad students churning out academic jargon instead of decent writing. (And then there’s the hair …)

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Some Authors Flee Amazon’s All-You-Can-Read Service For More Lucrative Shores

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“For romance and mystery novelists who embraced digital technology, loved chatting up their fans and wrote really, really fast, the last few years have been a golden age. Fiction underwent a boom unseen since the postwar era, when seemingly every liberal arts major set his sights on the Great American Novel. Now, though, the world has more stories than it needs or wants to pay for.”

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Writing About The Past When Evidence Is Slim

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“I was very interested in the way that the past was just continually reinvented as new ideas of homosexuality came along. It left me interested in not just the gay past, but how we write about the gay past and how we claim it or deny it. That led straight into my novels.”

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One Man’s Guide To Reading Better

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“We all read from different places, different backgrounds, and my meeting with Proust or Woolf, or Lydia Davis or J. M. Coetzee, will not be yours, nor should it be. On the other hand I do believe reading is an active skill, an art even, certainly not a question of passive absorption.”

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Why A 1930s Detective Story Has Become A Surprise Christmas Hit

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“Mystery in White: A Christmas Crime Story by J Jefferson Farjeon is selling in “astonishing numbers”, according to the Waterstones book chain. It has outsold rival paperbacks Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch on the high street, while Amazon temporarily ran out of stock last week due to surging demand.”

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The (Useful) Role Of Cliches In Our Lives

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“Consider, for example, the common phrases that are typically exchanged in friendly greetings. How are you? How’s it going? How are you keeping? What’s up? In most cases we do not regard these questions, or the typical answers to them, as clichés; instead they are formulas, a stock of frozen expressions whose purpose probably has less to do with encoding information than with the maintenance of smooth relations. They are unoriginal, surely, perhaps overused, but certainly not ineffective.”

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Board Fires CEO Of Queens Library System In NYC

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“The library’s Board of Trustees axed Galante on Wednesday after reviewing his expense accounts, which included charging more than $40,000 to his library credit card for food, alcohol and entertainment. Galante is still facing federal and city probes into how he managed library funds.”

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The Weird Network Of Science Paper Plagiarizers

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“Where in the world did researchers most often copy the work of others? And how often were people straight-up plagiarizing versus quoting heavily—but still citing—someone else’s stuff? What they found surprised them.”

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Amazon Publishing ‘Suppresses’ Book With Too Many Hyphens

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“When they ran an automated spell check against the manuscript they found that over 100 words in the 90,000-word novel contained that dreaded little line,” says author Graeme Reynolds. “This, apparently, ‘significantly impacts the readability of your book,’ and, as a result, ‘We have suppressed the book because of the combined impact to customers.'”

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An Old Membership-Only Library Remakes Itself As A Thriving Intellectual Equivalent Of Church

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“The [Providence] Athenaeum, a Greek Revival edifice that still gives its solid wooden card catalog pride of place, looks and feels like it belongs in another century. But it has lately become a vital part of 21st-century civic life, thanks to a lively Friday night salon series with discussion topics ranging from the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring to the Rhode Island quahog clam industry.”

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Those Amazing Writing Machines (A Cult Of Typewriters)

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“We felt we were more productive on a typewriter because we had to keep moving forward…. If we made a mistake, we kept typing. If we wanted to rearrange the information, we had to start over. With the word processor we’ve lost some of the immediacy. It’s too easy to delete, to cut and paste.”

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Walking The Paris Of Patrick Modiano’s Novels

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“There is probably no other writer like Modiano who invites his readers on a tour. Give me your hand, he says, and I’ll take you to the streets of Paris. He returns to places he knew many years ago, and demonstrates that very little has changed. He gives us a clear, concise, amazingly accurate map with which we can walk around the city.”

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Hilary Mantel’s “Assassination Of Margaret Thatcher” Story Brouhaha Starts Up Again

The Assassination Of Margaret Thatcher

BBC Radio 4 announced that the historical fantasy would be read on the popular Book at Bedtime broadcast, and the folks who fussed when the story was published this fall have resumed fussing. Says Mantel, “You’d think they’d learn. I was bemused when Lord Bell suggested the police should interest themselves in the case of a fictional assassination of a person who was already dead.”

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