ArtsJournal: Arts, Culture, Ideas


Writer Jenny Offill On What Can Be Done During The Pandemic

If you have elderly parents and kids to care for, not much. "The pandemic has been through all these different stages and you’re constantly moving between boredom and terror. We recently converted our dining table to a ping-pong table and I felt that was the final stage of getting through the winter." - The Guardian (UK)

With A New Book Called ‘I Hate Men,’ A French Author Has Truly Hit A Nerve

That's not the only work making a claim that France has an extremely long way to go in reckoning with gender inequality in every arena of life, including and perhaps especially the arts. The author of I Hate Men: "Feminists have spent a lot of time and energy reassuring men that no, we don’t really hate them, that they’re welcome. Not much has happened in exchange." - The New York Times

How Romance Writers Funded, And Spread Interest In, The Georgia Races With One Of Their Own

Writer Alyssa Cole explains why it makes sense that romance writers came together to raise money for Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock in the Georgia Senate runoff races (Stacey Abrams, who has engaged in massive voter turnout since her defeat at the ballot box in 2018, is also a romance writer under the pen name Selena Montgomery). "As far as romance novels and politics go, for people who are engaged in progressive politics, there is the link between the idea of optimism. One of the things that gets the reader through the book is knowing that at the end of the book, there will be some kind of resolution that leaves them feeling satisfied and uplifted. And I think people who read those kinds of romance novels and who write those kinds of romance novels are also seeking that in their real life." - NPR

The Number Of Indie Bookstores In The UK And Ireland Soared In 2020

What the actual heck? Well, a lot of people opened bookshops in 2020, during the pandemic, because why not? Their jobs had evaporated, and the bookshops were a long-held dream. But in the UK's third hard lockdown, the numbers may change again - for the far, far worse. - The Guardian (UK)

Reckoning With Author Patricia Highsmith At 100

Highsmith - author of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train, not to mention The Price of Salt (renamed Carol to go along with the movie) - had a dark, dark well of self-hate that affected most of her fiction. And yet: "It feels good to be hunted. If you read the genres of suspense – crime and mystery and horror in its many iterations – you know the sensation of allowing a master of her craft to pursue you through a maze; the tingly energy of the chase, the eroticism of encountering the end of the line." - The Guardian (UK)

Consider The Word ‘Sedition’

"Sedition — Merriam-Webster defines it as 'incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority' — is a word that echoes across American history, archaic yet familiar. Historically, charges of sedition have just as often been used to quash dissent … as they have to punish actual threats to government stability or functioning. But to many scholars and historians, the use of the word on Wednesday — and the force of condemnation it conjured — was not misplaced." - The New York Times

Simon & Schuster Cancels Sen. Josh Hawley’s Book In Wake Of Capitol Riot

From the company's announcement: "We did not come to this decision lightly. As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints: at the same time we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom." - AP

What Editors Do

Lish’s job on Carver is perhaps too extreme to serve as an example of the role of the editor, but what any kind of boundary breaking always does is to draw attention to the boundary itself—in this case between editor and writer, who together with the text form a kind of Bermuda Triangle within whose force field everything said and done disappears without trace. - Paris Review

‘One Of Last Great Shared Texts In Our Culture’ (And It’s A 70-Year-Old Comic Strip)

"In a highly polarized culture … the most recent and arguably final example of a great American work of art loved broadly and without reservations by the masses, the elite, and everyone in the so-called middle. Is Peanuts the last American artwork with universal appeal? And what is the spiritual message it conveys that engenders that appeal?" - Literary Hub

Who Exactly Invented The Alphabet, And When?

The Sumerians had cuneiform and the Egyptians hieroglyphics, both complex and difficult to master, but who developed the system where each character represents a particular sound and the characters (letters) can be combined to form words the way sounds are? The Phoenicians invented the alphabet from which all the European and Near Eastern scripts (and possibly those of India as well) are descended, but they didn't come up with the idea. Who did? Very likely, a bunch of common laborers. - Smithsonian Magazine

How ‘American Dirt’ Went From Hot Title To PR Fiasco And Still Became A Bestseller

Despite the disastrous rollout of a book that had been advance-hyped by some as a Grapes of Wrath-level work of literature, Jeanine Cummins's thriller about an Acapulco bookseller and her young son on the run from a drug cartel was the top-selling novel for adults of 2020. Here's a report on how the rise and fall and rise of American Dirt happened: as one employee of the publisher put it, the particular circumstances "allowed for certain things to get out of hand." - Vulture

Ray Bradbury’s Outsized Influence On American Culture

There were other fine sci-fi writers, but Ray was the one who first engaged the mainstream audience. He had a huge impact on both American literature and popular culture. He was also one of the most significant California writers of the last century. - Los Angeles Review of Books

Author Of ‘War Horse’ Insists He Wasn’t Trying To Censor Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’

" described '21st-century sensibilities' as having prevented the inclusion of the play in Tales from Shakespeare, his retelling of 10 Shakespeare plays for children aged six and older." Morpurgo says that this way of describing his decision is bogus: he had to choose only ten plays, and he felt they should be stories appropriate for eight-year-olds, which The Merchant of Venice is not. - The Guardian

For Independent Bookstores, The Long 2020 Nightmare Is Not Nearly Over

The legendary Powell's still sits empty of customers, no matter how many people may be buying online or via curbside pickup. The hope for 2021 is just to survive, says its CEO. But for some smaller bookstores, nimble moves were easier. Take Maggie Mae's, a children's bookstore. "The takeway for Maggie Mae’s ... is to 'embrace the pivot' by making changes that will benefit both the business and the community." - The Oregonian

The Writer Who Wants Readers To Feel Like Voyeurs

After all, why should we have access to the characters' sex lives? Raven Leilani, author of Luster, says "I try to portray it in the way that moves me when I see it, when it is awkward and silly, which it often is. To depict it that way is to make it tender; what it looks like when two bodies, especially two bodies that are very different, get to know each other. ... For me that is the most enjoyable kind of sex to watch and to read." - The Guardian (UK)

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