Welcome to the weekly Vox book link roundup, a curated collection of the best writing on the web about books and related subjects. Here’s the best the internet has to offer for the week of October 15, 2017.
- Let us travel back in time to the early ‘80s, when Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro wrote a screenplay for the BBC about a gourmet who eats a ghost:
Manley kills the tramp — now twice murdered — and quickly cooks him in his wok, his face "impatient and lecherous" with anticipation. What does tramp ghost taste like? What is its "mouthfeel"? Is it sour and moldy? Slimy or leathery? Airy? Gamey, perhaps? With characteristic restraint, Ishiguro doesn't say, but he offers one pungent detail: The meat smells "powerful and awful."
- At LitHub, Kaveh Akbar has compiled a list of the words most associated with 137 writers (Margaret Atwood: handmaid; Beyoncé: lemonade; Ta-Nehisi Coates: plunder).
- Amazon recently announced plans to build a new headquarters, and cities across the country are competing to host it. (New York lit up its landmarks in “Amazon Orange.”) At Politico, Paul Roberts argues that bringing Amazon to a city is not necessarily a net good:
The influx of well-paid tech workers [to Seattle] has helped drive up the median house price by 69 percent since 2012, and has added to income inequality: The average tech salary was $98,215 last year, while more than half of the city’s residents earned less than $50,000. And rich and poor alike must endure traffic congestion that is now the fourth worst in the United States. Such “negative externalities,” as economists call them, aren’t the fault of Amazon or any of its tech peers. Even pre-Bezos, Seattle’s housing market and transportation infrastructure had struggled under the city’s superstar status. Seattle’s new Amazon headache is simply what happens when a hyper-successful company meets an already popular city.
- George Saunders won the Man Booker Prize this week for his novel Lincoln in the Bardo. At the Guardian, he talks about writing a novel after devoting his career to short stories, and to the function of empathy in his work:
At every event, “sweet young people” would ask Saunders “some version of: ‘Should we stick with the liberal values of sympathy and empathy or should we resist?’ And I was like: ‘They’re the same.’ I don’t see a difference. Vigorous compassion, understood properly, is very energetic. It can be angry, it can be coercive. It doesn’t have to be weak. The misunderstanding of kindness and empathy is that it is someone driving a spike through your head and you’re like: ‘Oh, thank you! I can hang a coat on it!’”
- The new Philip Pullman book La Belle Sauvage came out this week; set in the same universe as His Dark Materials, it’s the first installment of a new trilogy called The Book of Dust. (We loved it.) Also at the Guardian, Pullman talks about his plans for the new trilogy:
“It’s the question of consciousness, perhaps the oldest philosophical question of all: are we matter? Or are we spirit and matter? What is consciousness if there is no spirit? Questions like that are of perennial fascination and they haven’t been solved yet, thank goodness,” he said. “I’m still very grateful that scientists have not discovered what dark matter is. I was holding my breath and crossing my fingers they wouldn’t while I was writing His Dark Materials. They still don’t know and I’m very happy about that.”
- At Guernica, Gwen E. Kirby tells the tale of the Midwestern Girl:
Midwestern Girl goes to New York City and reminds the protagonist (of course she is not the protagonist) of everything he has left behind. He covets her innocence and despises it. When she gives up and returns home, he is sad, but not surprised.
- LitHub has collected 14 famous writers trashing 14 famous books; Elizabeth Bishop on Salinger’s Seymour — An Introduction is a delight:
I HATED the Salinger story. It took me days to go through it, gingerly, a page at a time, and blushing with embarrassment for him every ridiculous sentence of the way. How can they let him do it? That horrible self-consciousness, every sentence comments on itself and comments on itself commenting on itself, and I think it was actually supposed to be funny. And if the poems were so good, why not just give us one or two and shut up, for God’s sake?