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How the ghost of Christopher Marlowe haunts English literature

And the rest of the week’s best writing on books and related subjects.

Unknown 21-year old man, supposed to be Christopher Marlowe Wikimedia Commons/Quibik
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.

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 22, 2017.

  • Chrome has a new Library Extension that will pop up if you’re looking at a book on Amazon or Goodreads and tell you if your local library has a copy. Yay libraries!
  • The Rumpus has created a list of what to read when it’s been a hell of a year, from which I think we can all benefit.
  • In the wake of the #MeToo movement, many industries are reckoning with their own sexual harassment problems. Unshockingly, publishing — an industry where the overall workforce is composed of 80 percent women yet management is 51 percent men — is one of them. Publishers Weekly has the story.
  • And the Hollywood Reporter takes a look at how Harvey Weinstein used his now-shuttered imprint, Weinstein Books, as a shield for his own misdeeds.
  • Remember how right after J.D. Salinger died in 2010, there were stories that he had piles of manuscripts stashed in his house, and now they were finally going to see the light of day? The New York Times asks, whatever happened to those alleged books?
  • At the New Yorker, James Ledbetter explores the eternal problem of British and American writers trying to write in each other’s vocabularies:

Writers and editors who go back and forth between the U.K. and the U.S. told me that increased cross-pollination creates confusion. Several were quick to point out that the lines between British and American English are hardly fixed. In Hornby’s novel “A Long Way Down,” from 2005, three Britons and an American encounter each other, on New Year’s Eve, on the rooftop of a London tower, each having arrived with suicidal intentions. The American character, JJ, initially reveals his nationality by referring to a “cell phone” instead of a “mobile.” But the use of “mobile” seems to have grown in the U.S. in the years since.

We do our children a disservice if we try to shield them from “bad” language: whether they use it often or rarely, they will need it as part of their emotional lexicon. There are some feelings that ordinary words just can’t do justice to. Children get a better handle on swearing when they learn it from responsible adults rather than picking it up in the playground. It’s a bit like the French approach to drinking: a bit of watered-down wine with dinner teaches children the appropriate way to enjoy it.

Like a lot of analog industries, most rare-book dealers didn’t take to the Internet immediately. Ebay was the first place where rare books could really flourish online, but traditional dealers still held off, more comfortable selling through the mail, via catalogues, or in person at specialized fairs and brick-and-mortar shops. That landscape is shifting, though—especially in the retail world. “Rare-book stores are kind of rare these days,” says Kevin Sell, a bookseller and grad student in St. Paul, Minn., who goes by @rarebooksleuth on Instagram. “No one really goes into a rare-book store and browses for $500 books. Typically, the person who’s buying a rare book knows what they want. So they will look online, and find the best copy in the best condition at the best price.”

By that age I already spent a lot of time thinking that I was damned; that I didn’t really believe in Jesus, I just believed that I believed because I knew that that was what one had to do to go to heaven. Nothing transactional, I thought, could possibly be pure.

This is John Faustus’s central problem and Marlowe writes it like someone who has felt it, who has found himself trapped in that unending damning logic puzzle. Sure, Faustus compounds it by summoning a demon, but if you believe yourself to be constitutionally incapable of receiving salvation, why not get what you can while you can? Why not sign your own death warrant, appoint your own time and place, gain some modicum of control?

Happy reading!

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