Happy Saturday! Let’s get right down to it: Herewith is the best the internet has to offer on books and related topics for the week of August 1, 2016.
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie answered reader questions for the Guardian, covering literature, race, and gender. Here she is responding to a middle-aged white man who wants to write about a disadvantaged Bengali girl:
It's unfortunate that you seem to assume that if a white middle aged man doesn't write about a Bengali girl, then the story of Bengali girls will not be written. There are in fact many Bengalis who can write about Bengali girls - and it probably doesn't feel 'insurmountable' to them. And 'disadvantaged Bengali girl' is a very troubling way of framing an idea of a story. It already suggests that this character will be seen through the lenses of her 'disadvantage' alone. People are people. 'Disadvantaged' people also have agency, and dream, and think, and desire. Sometimes how one frames a story determines whether or not we will see the fullness of a character.
- At the New Republic, Brit Bennett has a smart history of the slave narrative:
The problem with the slave narrative is its predictability: A person is born in bondage to a cruel master; he or she observes a first whipping, struggles to obtain literacy, attempts to flee, fails, and later successfully escapes to the North. If the purpose of autobiography is to uniquely render a unique life, then slave narratives often feel formulaic, the narrators indistinct.
- And at Electric Literature, Amy Gentry has a smart history of the rape narrative:
No one ever tells you that the novel started with rape, but it did. Several thousand pages of it.
- For something cheerier, the New York Times examines the cults of Will and Jane:
“Shakespeare was almost a kind of cheesy pop-culture phenomenon in the 18th century,” said Janine Barchas, an Austen expert at the University of Texas who curated the show with Kristina Straub, a Shakespeare scholar at Carnegie Mellon University.
“When you look at how his reputation was formed, and then grew,” she continued, “it’s very similar to what we’re seeing with Austen now, and the way that pop culture creates a foundation for high culture.”
- That newly discovered ruined castle at Tintagel is probably not King Arthur’s castle, but gosh, it’s pretty.
- At the New Yorker’s Page-Turner, Jia Tolentino discusses the new novels of white status anxiety:
The subtext, both with Trump supporters and in these two novels, is whiteness—and the sense of entitlement, the powerful claim to earning power, that whiteness in America often brings.
- At LitHub, Jade Sharma talks about her first day as a debut author:
I get a text from my brother: Your novel is on Amazon! It’s like a real book!
At first I feel good. My brother has never mentioned my book. Then I re-consider. He’s not saying “Congrats.” He’s not saying “I’m so proud of you.” He actually can’t believe it. He never believed that I spent the last five years writing a book. What did he think I was doing? Watching daytime television? I am retroactively pissed. And of course it’s on Amazon. It’s not even that hard to get a book on Amazon.
- And also at LitHub, here’s the story of the time Donald Trump’s assistant took an MFA seminar and plagiarized:
Her plagiarized story was the power of “I’ve got one over on you,” especially the professor. A con. That pleasure is fleeting, a gotcha surge. But she wouldn’t be one of the loser students twisting in their seats, exposed and vulnerable, imperfect, as they sought to find their true voices on the page. She’d win by play-pretending she was a writer and have the secret pleasure of dissing the powers that be—in this case, me.