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 29, 2017.
- Following John Kelly’s assertion that the Civil War was caused by a “failure to compromise,” Ta-Nehisi Coates has compiled a list of books to read if you would like to be “less stupid” about the Civil War.
- And the New York Times has a reading list to help explain how impeachment functions in America.
- As National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo, kicks off, Jennifer Baker delves into how long it takes to write a novel:
Perfection can be a form of procrastination. Something is keeping us (me) from finishing. Enter the internet, which bestows a bevy of information: notifications of a sale; news of a story about an author taking a year to create what’s taken me a year to contemplate, thereby initiating an internal competition of when one “should” be done. In those moments of seeing or reading about others’ progress, I have a niggling doubt about whether or not I really am a writer. When was the last time I submitted something? When I stare at my drafts and my eyes settle on dates connected to documents I see the growth, yet it feels as though I’m barely inching away from the start of the marathon and the massive banner for the end is miles away.
- And novelist Alexander Chee talks through his revision process:
I created a process that a lot of my friends have adopted, where I created a journal that was specifically for the novel that I was working on. So each day I would open it when I started working and I’d read the most recent entry so I could remember where I was. And, if I needed to, I could refer to things in the past. And as the day went on, if I needed to dip into old files, I’d list them. It was a way of leaving a trail for myself about my own thoughts. I’d include any questions I had about the manuscript. I’d vent about scenes that I thought were still disgusting or pathetic or unworthy etc. I’d ask questions about why that was the case. Then the next day I’d try to answer them.
Like Daughters of Eve before it, Lois Duncan’s Down a Dark Hall is an expertly executed parable of the terror of teenage girlhood, when adults simply don’t understand and refuse to listen and the most valuable thing about you is your unspoiled youth and your easily influenced mind. Teenage girls in fiction — and, sometimes, in real life — are prone to a sort of groupthink that can make them targets for those who would wish to do them harm.
- Have you ever read The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector? It’s a really gorgeous book, full of incredible, twisty, lyrical prose. At Electric Lit, Kristopher Jansma explores what happened to Lispector after she lost her unfinished writing in a fire:
To face these huge new challenges, Lispector got some help. She began to see a psychiatrist, Jacob Azulay, five days a week, an hour a day — for the next six years. Sometimes, he recalled, she would write sentences and fragments in his office.
“I am nothing,” she wrote, once, according to Azulay. “I feel like those insects who shed their skin. Now I lost the skin. The name of that skin is Clarice Lispector.”
- In 1897, the Manchester Guardian found Bram Stoker’s Dracula to be enjoyable trash:
A writer who attempts in the nineteenth century to rehabilitate the ancient legends of the were-wolf and the vampire has set himself a formidable task. Most of the delightful old superstitions of the past have an unhappy way of appearing limp and sickly in the glare of a later day, and in such a story as Dracula, by Bram Stoker, the reader must reluctantly acknowledge that the region of horrors has shifted its ground. Man is no longer in dread of the monstrous and the unnatural, and although Mr. Stoker has tackled his gruesome subject with enthusiasm, the effect is more often grotesque than terrible.