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 November 5, 2017.
- The New York Times has a completely delightful profile of Otis Kidwell Burger, who hosts a weekly poetry reading at the West Village townhouse where she’s lived for nearly 60 years:
Her Sunday evening invitation-only salons have a Bohemian feel. Many of the poets date back to the Village in the ’50s, and Ms. Kidwell Burger can reminisce about longshoremen working the piers and seaman living in local rooming houses and frequenting salty bars. She can recall freight trains clattering by on the tracks that are now part of the High Line.
“Now it’s one of the more expensive places in the city to live,” she said. “The billionaires are pushing out the millionaires.”
- LitHub has collected the vast wisdom of Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro together all in one place:
“Write about what you know” is the most stupid thing I’ve heard. It encourages people to write a dull autobiography. It’s the reverse of firing the imagination and potential of writers.
- Also at LitHub, Emily Temple talked with a group of authors about how weird it was to try to promote a new novel in the first year of the age of Trump:
One of the most insidious parts of living under a leadership that is actively trying to stoke terror and rage on a daily, even hourly, basis is that all forms of human activity start to seem incoherent and lose their meaning. With more appalling news than anyone can possibly read being generated every day, it hasn’t been a fun time to go around being like, “Hey guys, I wrote a novel about a young girl meditating on the formal possibilities of language.”
- BookList Reader has a list of fantastic debut novels by diverse authors that came out in 2017 and 2016.
- At the New Yorker’s website, Roxana Robinson talks about what it’s like to teach Madame Bovary:
How will we engage emotionally? Because we do, people are still reading this book a hundred and sixty-one years after its publication. One woman told me that her grandmother was reading it with her; they held their own book group, every week, to discuss it. One student—a guy—admired Emma’s aristocratic lover, Rodolphe. “That breakup letter he wrote was really beautiful,” he said.
A woman in the class stared at him. “You thought it was beautiful?” she asked. “I wrote in the margin, ‘Fuck you.’”
- Emily Wilson just gave us the first published English translation of The Odyssey by a woman. At the New York Times, she walks us through her translation of the first line: “Tell me about a complicated man.”
“One of the things I struggled with,” Wilson continued, sounding more exhilarated than frustrated as she began to unpack “polytropos,” the first description we get of Odysseus, “is of course this whole question of whether he is passive — the ‘much turning’ or ‘much turned’ — right? This was —”
“Treat me,” I interrupted, “as if I don’t know Greek,” as, in fact, I do not.
“The prefix poly,” Wilson said, laughing, “means ‘many’ or ‘multiple.’ Tropos means ‘turn.’ ‘Many’ or ‘multiple’ could suggest that he’s much turned, as if he is the one who has been put in the situation of having been to Troy, and back, and all around, gods and goddesses and monsters turning him off the straight course that, ideally, he’d like to be on. Or, it could be that he’s this untrustworthy kind of guy who is always going to get out of any situation by turning it to his advantage. It could be that he’s the turner.”
- At Electric Literature, A.J. O'Connell writes a love letter to Cricket, the beloved children’s magazine:
Kelly Link, whose collection of fantastical short stories Get In Trouble was a Pulitzer finalist in 2016, loved Cricket so much as a child she’s kept all of her back issues — she could not bear to get rid of them. Cricket influenced her to become a writer “one hundred percent,” she says, and more than that, nudged her toward writing short stories.
“[Cricket taught me] that poetry and short stories could be playful,” Link said. “That you could write contemporary short stories deliberately. That I liked some short stories better than others, and I especially liked stories of the fantastic.”
- At the Atlantic, Karen Swallow Prior delves into Flannery O’Connor’s college journal full of doubts:
I am. This is not pure conceit. I am not self-satisfied but I feel that God has made my life empty in this respect so that I may fill it in some wonderful way—the word ‘wonderful’ frightens me. It may be anything but wonderful. I may grovel the rest of my life in a stew of effort, of misguided hope.