It is disgustingly hot in New York this weekend. If you are here, I beg you not to move. Find an air-conditioned room or, failing that, a large bucket of ice water, and sit in there forever. And to keep you occupied, here’s the best the internet has to offer on books and related subjects for the week of August 8, 2016:
- There’s no possible way I am the only Narnia-addicted child who, upon trying Turkish delight for the first time, thought that if Edmund was going to betray Jesus for candy, he really should have held out for chocolate. Luckily, JStor is here to explain that choice for us, including why Turkish delight seemed so luxurious and appealing to C.S. Lewis:
When the White Witch asks Edmund what he’d like best to eat, it’s entirely possible that Lewis was answering for him: the candy that would be most difficult and expensive to obtain. Edmund isn’t just asking the witch for candy, he’s essentially asking her for Christmas, too.
- At the Guardian, Alex Clark has a lovely take on literary female friendships:
Friendship, in literature as in life, is a dizzyingly various prospect; and it tells us things about ourselves that we may not want to know. Female friendship, with its additional charge of possible subversion – a world free from male control – is densely suggestive, whether it appears to be … or whether it masquerades as something more straightforward.
- Also at the Guardian is a fascinating piece on “bureaucramancy,” the fantasy of the mundane:
As species of personality go, the writer and the bureaucrat are closely related: they’re deskbound creatures who enjoy the comfortable certainties of Microsoft Office and dazzling us with wordcraft, be it small-print legalese or the impenetrable prose of literary fiction.
- The LARB has a fantastic review of the always-dazzling Helen Oyeyemi and her latest book:
Try reading this book for an hour and afterward writing words of your own without its style affecting yours. A teasing tone undercuts moments that might otherwise have been serious, and this tone can at times seem godlike in its detachment. Think the god Hermes, that fleet-footed trickster, and perhaps you have Oyeyemi’s style in a nutshell.
- LitHub tells us how to solve a book emergency:
I called AAA and waited for them to arrive and fix my flat tire. I waited. And I waited. And I waited some more. And suddenly I realized, to my horror, that I didn’t have any reading material in the car.
- Also at LitHub, Stuart Nadler writes an elegy to all the characters he’s killed:
They perished in car crashes, and fell victim to global pandemics. They died because of heinous mistakes performed by drunken surgeons. They walked into the woods in the middle of winter and did not come out. They went out to skate on ponds that looked frozen but were not frozen enough, and eventually they fell through the ice and died. They chased puppies into the street, hoping the puppies would not be killed by cars, and then they themselves were killed by cars. They went up in helicopters and came down in pieces.
- At Lenny Letter, Jasmine Sanders has a beautiful and harrowing discussion of Toni Morrison’s Beloved and maternal ambivalence:
I lose myself in Toni Morrison's Beloved and I know that I am Sethe's and she is mine. I see my own reflection in the black pools of her eyes; I recognize the curves of that wide mouth that drove the male slaves of the plantation to fuck cows in their longing for her.
- New York magazine has a long and fascinating history of plot:
Theorists of plot tend to think of the concept elastically. If plot is the arrangement of incident, each incident itself is also a plot in miniature. The crucial question is the level of causality linking the incidents — or if not causality, the appearance of design, as in Aristotle’s example of the murderer of Mitys dying when a statue of Mitys falls on him. Paradoxically, he says, tragic wonder is greater when it happens by accident.
One line member tells Atwood she doesn’t know who she is, hasn’t read any of her books, and wants to know which she should start with. The author shoots her that stare. “So you want me to say who I am. Well, I’m secretly Glinda the Good Witch in disguise, and the best novel that I wrote is called the Iliad,” Atwood says, deadpan. “What?” the woman asks. “The Iliad. It’s about the Trojan War,” Atwood replies.