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Margaret Atwood does not care for Bob Dylan’s Nobel win

18th Annual LA Times Festival Of Books - Day 1 Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for LA Times
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.

As we wade through the depths of prestige book season, the prestige authors are giving out interviews like candy on Halloween. Below, we’ve collected best of them, plus the rest of the best the internet has to offer on books and related subjects for the week of October 17, 2016.

“Swing Time” is Zadie’s first novel written in the first person. This comes as a surprise, given the verve of her prose style in books such as “White Teeth” and “NW.” “I was always a bit contemptuous of the first person,” Zadie tells me. “I was stupid about it. I thought it wouldn’t allow me to write about other people. But, in fact, it allows you to do it in a really interesting way because it’s all inflected by the subjectivity of the character. Once I stopped feeling self-conscious about it, then it moved quickly. It did move quickly.”

  • Also, did we all know Smith can sing? Like, really sing?

Atwood says adaptations like these require both a reverence for and willingness to desecrate their source material, and is quick to point out that Shakespeare himself based many of his plays on preexisting myths or folk stories: “What does fan mean?” she asks. “It’s from the word fanatic, someone with a passionate interest.”

“Oh,” I say. “Bob Dylan’s won the Nobel prize.” She is about to have her photograph taken, and is arranging a rakish grey felt hat atop her steely curls. She looks at me, opens her mouth very slightly, and widens her eyes. They are the faintly unrealistic blue of a Patagonian glacier.

“For what?” she says, aspirating the word “what” with devastating effect.

Right now, what’s the principal way that I’m spoken of in a passing way? I guarantee you this is the case: I’m grouped with two other writers who have the same first name I do — the Jonathans. Could there be a more arbitrary box? It’s the stupidest trap you could fall into and it’s ironclad: that is my first name.

Part of what’s disturbing about both Kansas City incidents is the extent to which they illustrate the gap that has opened between police and the communities in which they work—a divide that, with horrifying regularity, produces far more disastrous and violent results in our inner cities. In fact, public libraries are among the very few remaining places where all Americans can meet to exchange ideas and listen to opposing viewpoints for free.

If there is a syllabus this election season, Fallada deserves a place on it. Not because the Republican presidential nominee leaves us grasping for Nazi analogies. As historians have noted, the billionaire-populist-outsider candidate is sui generis, like the election he’s running in. Rather, it’s the social world Fallada conveys in Little Man, What Now, with documentary-like realism, that feels like a warning.

Best friends remind good best friends that they deserve more, and they should take it. Good best friends are there to watch and steady bad best friends, to love them no matter how many rules they break.

(If you want to read another Bad Best Friend book, may I recommend The Girls?)

Happy reading!

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