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Jonathan Franzen went to Antarctica and Jeopardy this week, and more book news

Jonathan Franzen Honored With WELT Award For Literature
Jonathan Franzen.
Photo by Timur Emek/Getty Images
Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

My friends, we are about tip over the precipice of spring and into summer. Possibly you are about to begin your reduced or flexible work schedule with summer Fridays? If so, please go ahead and use some of your new free time to catch up on all of this week’s book news. (You lucky thing, you.) Here is the best the web has to offer on books and related topics for the week of May 16, 2016.

  • Jonathan Franzen made the rounds this week. First, he wrote for the New Yorker on visiting Antarctica:

On either side of the Lemaire Channel were spiky black mountains, extremely tall but still not so tall as to be merely snow-covered; they were buried in wind-carved snowdrift, all the way to their peaks, with rock exposed only on the most vertical cliffs. Sheltered from wind, the water was glassy, and under a solidly gray sky it was absolutely black, pristinely black, like outer space. Amid the monochromes, the endless black and white and gray, was the jarring blue of glacial ice.

What if Frankenstein's Creature became the infamous Phantom of the Opera? "What a silly thing to say" says you. "What a fun idea for a comic!" says I.

One learned very early to have the greatest concentration amid the greatest disruption. The idea that every “I” is largely made up of others and by the others wasn’t theoretical; it was a reality. To be alive meant to collide continually with the existence of others and to be collided with, the results being at times good-natured, at others aggressive, then again good-natured.

  • Robin Wasserman talked to LitHub about her new book, Girls on Fire. I saw “power of the teenage girl” in the headline and clicked over immediately, and I would suggest you do the same.

It is about being nowhere and feeling like you’re going nowhere, and, maybe most importantly, it is about society’s fear of teenage girls. “We are terrified of teenage sexuality,” Wasserman says. “Especially teenage girl sexuality.” All of these themes are explored through a Lynchian lens, a skewed take on small town America in all its hypocritical glory.

The tiniest breach in teenage etiquette could have all kinds of terrible repercussions, but the pain it caused couldn’t be expressed. Responses had to be regulated at all times. At 18, most girls live in a world of secret anguish. This is why young women such as my students can identify with Austen’s heroines—because they live, for the most part, in a similarly limited world.

Charlotte and Emily Brontë were never weak. They didn’t choose their seclusion because their femininity denied them careers and public life, or not only for that reason. The Brontës lived as they did because they needed privacy to write their extraordinary but scandalizing novels.

  • In the great grammar wars, I, personally, am on the side of the adverbs, but Vulture makes an eloquent case against them:

For an adjective, going adverb is a clunky transition. Of all the suffixes littering the English language, “-ly” is the most conducive to a singsong sound, and a vast category of adverbs are simply adjectives with “-ly” or “-ily” attached to their rears. Hopelessly, seemingly, fitfully — often adverbization results in a suffix pileup. You can convert a noun by reconceiving it as an adjective and adding the suffix to make a big, beautiful adverb, to put it Trumpily. You can also turn a noun into an adverb by attaching it to “-wise,” though that’s frowned upon of late (because it’s silly, soundwise).

Bad writers continue to write badly because they have many reasons – in their view very good reasons – for writing in the way they do. Writers are bad because they cleave to the causes of writing badly.

Happy reading!

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