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Fascism might be the word of the year. Read George Orwell on why it’s a slippery term.

George Orwell

Every Saturday, we round up the best recent writing the web has to offer on books and related subjects. Here’s your link roundup for the week of December 4, 2016. Enjoy!

  • Zadie Smith spoke in Berlin about multiculturalism just after the election last month, and now the New York Review of Books has the full text of her speech:

Sometimes it is put far more explicitly, like so: “You were such a champion of ‘multiculturalism.’ Can you admit now that it has failed?” When I hear these questions I am reminded that to have grown up in a homogeneous culture in a corner of rural England, say, or France, or Poland, during the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s, is to think of oneself as having been simply alive in the world, untroubled by history, whereas to have been raised in London during the same period, with, say, Pakistani Muslims in the house next door, Indian Hindus downstairs, and Latvian Jews across the street, is thought of, by others, as evidence of a specific historical social experiment, now discredited.

Now is the time to counter lies with facts, repeatedly and unflaggingly, while also proclaiming the greater truths: of our equal humanity, of decency, of compassion. Every precious ideal must be reiterated, every obvious argument made, because an ugly idea left unchallenged begins to turn the color of normal. It does not have to be like this.

The line you often hear in romance circles is that these are books “by women, about women, for women,” and there is probably no single place in popular culture that has embraced female sexual subjectivity and agency quite as enthusiastically as the romance genre.

Jane Austen, herself only too keenly aware of the value of money, and of the need for veracity, would have been savvy enough to know that a building the size of Wentworth Woodhouse… could not possibly have been supported on Mr. Darcy’s reported income of a mere £10,000 per annum.

  • At LitHub, Juliana Broad takes a timely look at Charles Dickens’s novel of labor unions, Hard Times:

Dickens deftly negotiates the complexities of how fragmenting our time—into work time and leisure time—spells out social decay. The “deadly-statistical clock” in Mr. Gradgrind’s study is so punctual that it seems to be capable of puncturing peoples’ lives, with its tics measuring “every second with a beat like a rap upon a coffin-lid.” The mechanical time necessary to demarcate work from non-work operates everywhere, not just in the factory. It at once oppresses and creates worker identity, acting consistently among all workers.

One reason People Who Aren’t Poets should care about the state of Poets is that there is in fact (to contradict myself) poetry in things that aren’t poetry, and it might very well bring you a moment of delight, which might in turn make everything ok for a spell; poetry is a kind of noticing, which can also function (like humor does) as an escape route from one potential meaning to another possibly more enjoyable meaning.

One reason a definition had been so difficult to come by, he writes, is that any group to whom it is applied would have to make “admissions” most of them are not “willing to make”—admissions as to the real nature of their ideology and objectives, behind the euphemisms, lies, and double-speak. If no one is a fascist, then everyone potentially is.

Happy reading!

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