Welcome back to our weekly book link roundup! We took last week off for Thanksgiving, but now we’re back and ready to kick off December with a collection of this week’s best writing on books and related subjects.
- At the Boston Review, Stephen Burt writes in praise of Yeats and rococo poetry in the age of Trump:
I also wanted my poetry to champion the femme, the elaborate, the playful, the serifed, the feathered, the self-consciously involute, the magenta and the chartreuse, even the ornamental: ruffles, dessert. I wanted that poetry, and other contemporary poetry too, to take pleasure in small things, and to push back against a patriarchal, instrumental, coarse, results-first, adult-driven, queer- and transphobic capitalism.
- At the New Yorker, Josephine Livingstone tells the tale of the indecipherable Voynich Manuscript:
Turn the covers—as Umberto Eco once did; it was the only book in the Beinecke’s famous collection that he cared to see—and you are greeted by writing in brown ink accompanied by strange diagrams and paintings of plants. The writing will not be decipherable to you. The book was made in the ordinary medieval way, but the script—the form of its letters, the language itself—was apparently invented by whoever made it. Some call the language and its script “Voynichese.” The letters loop prettily, and the text runs from left to right, top to bottom.
The ghostwriter herself was an older Jewish woman, probably in her mid-to-late seventies, extremely energetic and full of love. She typically wore crushed velvet track suits, zipped to a modest height, and had a huge smile. Her whole body shook as she typed, which she did furiously, with two fingers. You could hear the keystrokes down the hall. Her emails, which she sent at the speed of conversation, were often in all caps and always full of misspellings. It felt like being shouted at by someone with a thick accent, although she rarely meant it like that. All she meant was she didn’t give a shit about turning caps lock off.
- In our last book link roundup, we talked about some reading lists for navigating the Trump era. The New Inquiry has another, “created by a group of Black, Brown, Indigenous, Muslim, and Jewish people who are writers, organizers, teachers, anti-fascists, anti-capitalists, and radicals.”
- And LitHub has 10 books by indigenous authors you should read, especially as the situation at Standing Rock gets worse.
- The New York Times has released its yearly 100 notable books list. At Lithub, Emily Temple takes issue with some of their choices.
- Remember in 2014, when the Ferguson Library stayed open through all the protests to serve the community while the schools were shut down, and there was this huge outpouring of donations? It turns out they did some pretty great things with the money!
- At the New York Times, Leanne Shapton talks about making food inspired by her favorite children’s books.