On this summer weekend that is forecast to be quite rainy in some parts of the country, I have made many plans to be outside. Don't be like me. Sit inside and catch up on the week's book news. Here's the best of the web on books and related topics for the week of May 30.
There remains something mildly and even pleasurably heretical about the way the Boxcar Children locate the outer limits of amusement in decorous productivity—the way that, for them, there’s no better use of total independence than perfectly mimicking the most respectable behaviors of adults.
- At the Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates discusses the critical reception to his 2015 book Between the World and Me, and the charge that its popularity among white liberals amounts to little more than tokenism:
Tokenism attempts to obliterate these links—obliterates tradition and community. Your family is rendered invisible, and you become what other people, from other places, say about you. But popular and critical adulation are tricks of timing, luck, and fate. Viewing them as anything else, as self-definitional, as primary, is corrupting, is thirst.
- For Publishers Weekly, Alexis M. Smith looks at novels about women and wilderness:
The female psyche has often been equated with an untamable wilderness. Freud called it the “dark continent,” and writers male and female have been parsing that theme for decades since. I tend toward the interpretation that the female psyche, like the natural world, has been subjected to an imperialist male gaze, bent on colonization and exploitation, for centuries, so when I read books in which the natural world plays an important role, I tune into the female characters.
- Emma Straub talked with Book Riot about her excellent new novel, Modern Lovers:
You have done an amazing job bringing these characters to life. Did you have a favorite from the book?
Give me a badass teenage girl any day of the week–I love them all, but Ruby is my favorite.
- Showtime is adapting Jonathan Franzen’s Purity as a miniseries starring Daniel Craig, so that … is a thing that is happening.
- Mallory Ortberg brings us Ayn Rand’s Mary Poppins:
Did you want to know who is Mary Poppins? I am the first nanny of ability who refused to regard it as guilt. I am the first nanny who would not do penance for my virtues or let them be used as the tools of my destruction. I am the first nanny who would not suffer martyrdom at the hands of those who wished me to perish for the privilege of keeping them, alive.
- At LitHub, Oliver Munday discusses the process of designing a book (and whether or not he reads all of the books he works on):
The truth is, I read most manuscripts on a packed subway car to and from work in an uncomfortable negotiation of limbs, trying to sip an iced coffee in one hand while maintaining a sound grip on my device with the other. Sometimes I finish, sometimes I don’t.
- Also at LitHub, Matthew Norman talks about What to Do When No One Shows Up to Your Reading:
I went to the Fiction & Literature section and worked through some options in my head. I could go into the bathroom and try to drown myself in one of the toilets. I could fake an illness. I did that once when I was an altar boy in junior high. I could email my publicist and say… well, I have no idea. “Hey, Matthew Norman here, I need you to make a room full of people suddenly materialize in Baltimore and be interested in me or I’m going to have a nervous breakdown right here in front of the Danielle Steele section.”
- Two weeks ago when I linked you to New York magazine’s denunciation of the adverb, I noted that I myself am an adverb partisan, so I am pleased to be able to link you this week to Slate’s spirited defense of same:
Haranguing against the adverb is a cheap, easy piece of advice, one that offers a mechanical solution to the abstract question of good writing. Adverb hatred attacks a symptom, rather than a cause. Creative writing teachers tell beginning writers to avoid adverbs because, on some level, bad imitations of Hemingway are easier to slog through than bad imitations of Proust.
- The New York Times reports on a new wave of dystopian and surrealist fiction in the Middle East:
Dystopian themes are not entirely new in Arabic fiction. But they have become much more prominent in recent years, publishers and translators say. The genre has proliferated in part because it captures the sense of despair that many writers say they feel in the face of cyclical violence and repression. At the same time, futuristic settings may give writers some measure of cover to explore charged political ideas without being labeled dissidents.