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Sad men have a sad men’s book club, and more book news

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.

Happy Mother’s Day weekend! If you need a break from celebrating, why not catch up on your book news? Herewith: the best the web has to offer on books and related topics from the week of May 2, 2016.

  • It’s been a good week for digging up forgotten writing by beloved authors. First, Harper Lee’s profile of In Cold Blood's central character resurfaced; we wrote it up here at Vox, and it prompted the New Yorker to think about what kind of journalist Lee might have been.
  • And second, Neil Gaiman unearthed an old article he wrote for Time Out London in 1990 for his new book of essays, The View From the Cheap Seats. It contains one of the most entertaining descriptions of a completely uneventful night you’ll ever read:

It’s nearly five a.m. I stop a couple of cops I’ve seen across the roads all evening. Ask them about the West End – is there anything happening late at night? They say no, say the area’s still cruising on a reputation it hasn’t deserved for over a decade. They sigh, wistfully. 'You may get the odd rent boy hanging round Piccadilly, but that’s all they do: hang around.'

  • It’s also been an, uh, interesting week for talking about men and literature. The New York Times introduced the internet to a men-only book club, because men are very disenfranchised in American literary culture.
  • And Karl Ove Knausgård talked to Men’s Journal about being male and literary, which has shaped his not-so-flattering views on feminism:

The people who attack me for these things, for being what they call a "cultural man," it's a big thing in Sweden. On top of the pyramid in that sense. In Sweden, the feminist movement is attacking me for all kinds of reasons, which I feel is like they are constructing something they need. I'm a public figure, my books are public, and people can say whatever they like. But for me personally and what I'm doing, I can’t relate to it. And if I said it, I would be met by suspicion.

  • Zadie Smith talked to Refinery 29 about attending the Met Ball and what to expect from her upcoming novel, Swing Time — namely, "tap dancing, black women, money, poverty, sadness and joy!" We can’t wait.
  • The Guardian is obviously a venerable and brilliant publication, but I'd be lying if I pretended its food section isn't my favorite part of its coverage. (How to Eat? How to Cook the Perfect? You don’t need to try the recipes, just enjoy the writing.) I especially adore the series on preparing the meals described in famous books, and this recreation of the three-course luncheon in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own is a delight.
  • If our earlier enthusiastic coverage didn’t prompt you to read Jessa Crispin’s interview at Vulture about shuttering Bookslut, let this be your reminder.

[Literary blogs are] so professional, and I mean that as an insult.

good news

i have written you another poem

is it –

don’t worry

it’s VERY long and EXTREMELY unfinished

oh good

it’s about what if a woman saw another woman take her coat off

and it’s 9000 lines


it’s so great that i can still write when i’m high and it doesn’t affect my work

  • Maaza Mengiste on the writer’s place in a violent world is lovely.

Like some of you in here, I come to this language of English secondhand. I have fallen between its cracks trying to trudge my way toward comprehension. I have marveled at its flexibility but never so much as in recent years. What I have seen, what we have seen, is language forced into the service of violence. A rhetoric of desperation and devastation molded into the incomprehensible, then vomited out in images and words that we cannot ignore though we have tried.

  • It is always good to read Joan Didion, so don't skip her notes from the trip she took to California to cover the Hearst trial.

I seem to have gone to dances and been photographed in pretty dresses, and also as a pom-pom girl. I seemed to have been a bridesmaid rather a lot. I seem always to have been "the editor" or the "president."

I believed that I would always go to teas.

This is not about Patricia Hearst. It is about me and the peculiar vacuum in which I grew up, a vacuum in which the Hearsts could be quite literally king of the hill.

Happy reading!