Welcome to Vox’s weekly roundup of the best writing online about books and related subjects. Herewith is the best the internet has to offer for the week of January 23, 2017:
- In the same week that the chair of the House Science Committee told the nation that Donald Trump is the sole reliable source of truth, CNN reports that George Orwell’s 1984 made the best-seller list on Amazon.
- At the New Republic, Josephine Livingstone argues that 1984’s dystopia is too rooted in fear of World War II to be of use to us today:
There is no Amazon.com in Nineteen Eighty-Four, because it is not a novel about globalized capital. Not even slightly! Nineteen Eighty-Four does not pastiche a world ravaged by capitalism and ruled by celebrities—the kind of world that could lead to the election of someone like Trump. Instead, it depicts suffering inflicted by state control masquerading as socialism.
- Meanwhile, at the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani argues that 1984 is a must-read for the world of today:
In “1984,” Orwell created a harrowing picture of a dystopia named Oceania, where the government insists on defining its own reality and where propaganda permeates the lives of people too distracted by rubbishy tabloids (“containing almost nothing except sport, crime and astrology”) and sex-filled movies to care much about politics or history. News articles and books are rewritten by the Ministry of Truth and facts and dates grow blurry — the past is described as a benighted time that has given way to the Party’s efforts to make Oceania great again (never mind the evidence to the contrary, like grim living conditions and shortages of decent food and clothing).
- Speaking of best-sellers, the New York Times has reformatted its best-seller lists. Among other changes, it will no longer have separate lists for graphic novels and manga, but editors plan to compensate with increased graphic novel coverage elsewhere.
- Roxane Gay has pulled her forthcoming book from Simon & Schuster, in protest of the publisher’s high-profile book deal with Milo Yiannopoulos. (Incidentally, we loved Gay’s most recent book, Difficult Women.)
- News of Gay’s decision broke after Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy sent her authors a letter assuring them that Yiannopoulos’s book would not “incite hatred, discrimination or bullying,” and after it was reported that the alleged gunman behind a shooting at the University of Washington messaged Yiannopoulos shortly before firing.
- In lighter book news, Gay’s “By the Book” interview at the New York Times is fun — part of the pleasure of reading Gay is that she has very eclectic taste and can speak from authority about all kinds of genres, and that’s very much on display here:
I have a real soft spot for Dirk Pitt from the Clive Cussler books when he still wrote them himself. Dirk is this amazing, handsome, brash, adventurous guy who loves the ocean and cars and his sidekick Al Giordino. And he just always knows what he needs to know exactly when he knows it. He wouldn’t get kicked out of bed is all I’m saying. And in the books, he doesn’t get kicked out of bed.
My favorite villain is Annie Wilkes in Stephen King’s “Misery.” She was certainly … committed. You have to admire that. And I also recognize that beneath her pathology, she was just lonely. I understand what loneliness can make a woman do.
- Donald Trump has said he plans to defund the National Endowment for the Arts. Here is a list of all the projects the NEA funded in 2016.