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How Brexit will affect publishing, and more book news

Political Leaders Respond To The UK's EU Referendum Result Photo by Charles McQuillan/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.

Brexit is upon us, and it’s an event so outlandish it seems fictional. (Think about how many dystopias have “and then the UK left the EU” in their backstory, and then try not to think about it anymore.) So as we take the weekend to gather our thoughts, might I suggest seeking refuge in some book news? Here’s the best bookish writing the web has to offer for the week of June 20, 2016.

  • In the wake of Brexit, Publisher’s Weekly has early thoughts on the implications for book publishing. It ain’t pretty.
  • And Publisher’s Lunch has a more fine-grained analysis behind their paywall, if you’re a member. They specifically note that “the issue of English-language rights for continental Europe will once again become contentious.” In other words, with the UK out of the EU, US publishers may try to seize this opportunity to distribute US editions of their books throughout Europe, rather than leaving European sales territory exclusive to the UK.
  • At the Atlantic, Emily Anderson discusses the emotional restraint of the Little House books. Remember when Ma scolded Laura for slamming the door because that was “wooden swearing?”

Instead of following Oprah or Sheryl Sandberg, I have—for better and worse—heeded the stoic wisdom of Wilder, who writes in Little Town on the Prairie that “grown-up people must never let feelings be shown by voice or manner.” In other words: I’m passive-aggressive, I secretly pursue my own agenda, and—the greatest of self-care sins—I hide my feelings.

Your mother and father are dead, or something, but you have never missed them from the first moment you laid eyes upon your rescuer, the rakehell baronet. Your entire dead family means nothing to you now that he has saved you from, I don’t know, having a job.

This is the novel’s most profound contribution, and the insight that links Sweetbitter most thoroughly to the contemporary restaurant scene. Those looking to find their footing are compelled to, as [Stephanie] Danler puts it, “pass” as wealthier than they are. The easiest way to do this is, of course, by buying stuff.

Would she pounce on some unwittingly idolatrous remark of mine and eviscerate me as she had done [literary critic Harold] Bloom? Or was I in for the kind of treatment that Norman Mailer received at a notoriously fractious debate about feminism at New York City’s Town Hall in 1971, where Ozick, rising from her seat in the audience during the Q. and A. session, asked the author of “The Prisoner of Sex” (apropos of his remark that “A good novelist can do without everything but the remnant of his balls”): “Mr. Mailer, when you dip your balls in ink, what color ink is it?”

It is in fiction that the marriage plot really unravels—the breakup of a marriage serving as the necessary precondition for the novels’ experimentation with form.

Critics have been quick to bestow praise upon this latest retelling, though some–including Michiko Kakutani—have found Sittenfeld’s adaptation “heavy-handed,” while others have seen it as lacking Austen’s complexity and wit. But what has gone largely unremarked upon is the book’s relentless reliance on LGBT themes to achieve its freshness as an adaptation. The novel’s use of queer characters and subplots reminds us that mere representation is often more troubling than total erasure. Indeed, Eligible’s claim to originality is rooted in a seemingly innocuous but ultimately insidious homophobic levity.

Many of China’s “ultra-unreal” phenomena are written about on the internet immediately after they occur. Reality is a text to begin with, and now that the internet can show us “ultra-unreal” phenomena that we otherwise would not know about, we end up with a sort of doubled “ultra-unreal.” This has created a huge challenge for fiction. Fiction can no longer just tell straightforward stories about single topics following single narrative arcs; reality is providing us with all sorts of rich possibilities for experiments in fictional form. To some degree, the more true to reality fiction is these days, the more avant-garde it will seem. The way we look at things determines the way we write about them. Reality is mutable.

Happy reading!

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