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Apparently Mark Twain liked to “collect” young girls

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

Mark Twain Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
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 November 26, 2017.

Reading through the allegations, Cline was stunned to find a section titled “Cline’s History of Manipulating Older Men,” which purported to illustrate how Boies Schiller would easily discredit her arguments about her former boyfriend’s treatment of her before a jury. “[E]vidence shows that Cline was not the innocent and inexperienced naïf she portrayed herself to be, and had instead for many years maintained numerous ‘relations’ with older men and others, from whom she extracted gifts and money,” the section began. What followed were thirteen pages containing screenshots of explicit chat conversations with lovers, including one in which Cline had sent a naked photo of herself (the photo was blacked out in the letter) to a boyfriend, explicit banter with people she’d met online, and snippets of her most intimate diary entries.

  • Historical bummer time: It turns out that Mark Twain was one of those authors who is exceptionally good at writing about childhood and adolescence, and who also had relationships with children and teenagers that look pretty predatory from this side of history. (See also J.M. Barrie, Lewis Carroll, and J.D. Salinger.)

Twain’s obsession with adolescent girls can be explained in part by his exalting of his own teenaged years—years of daring and adventure. His wife, after all, had nicknamed him Youth, and his most memorable fictional characters, of course, are the adolescent Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Twain focused not on young boys, though, but sexually innocent girls from ages ten to sixteen, with undeveloped boyish bodies and with whom he carried out titillating flirtations.

  • If after reading the two links above you feel compelled to roast the men of the literary world, here’s just the thing (sure, of course, #NotAllMen, etc.). At Electric Literature, Helena Fitzgerald has compiled an exhaustive list of 20 authors you will wind up having an opinion on even if you’ve never read them, as long as you have dated a few lit dudes:

2. Kurt Vonnegut: Honestly, I feel pretty guilty that I’ve never finished a Kurt Vonnegut novel, and I’m sure the thing I say where I call him “the manic pixie dream girl of American literature” is probably wrong, but I’m not gonna stop saying it. Even if it isn’t an accurate description of Vonnegut himself, I stand by it absolutely, and in perpetuity, as a description of every single dude with a tattered copy of Breakfast of Champions on his nightstand.

  • The Literary Review has awarded its annual Bad Sex in Fiction prize to Christopher Bollen, for his novel The Destroyers:

“She covers her breasts with her swimsuit,” writes Bollen. “The rest of her remains so delectably exposed. The skin along her arms and shoulders are different shades of tan like water stains in a bathtub. Her face and vagina are competing for my attention, so I glance down at the billiard rack of my penis and testicles.”

Good god, I thought. I’m sitting on a treasure trove of unpublished material: novels, short stories, and dozens of drafts for each because I save them all. Could I make an AI and finally use this work? Could I make something meaningful from the collection of documents by collaborating with technology instead of being irritated by it?

Anne of Green Gables provides a language, a terminology perfectly suited for a certain type of girl. The type who is passionate about the world and its beauty and other people, and as such is never entirely satisfied. At 35, I still speak in Anne-isms: I seek out kindred spirits. I appreciate bosom friends. On a bad day, I’m in the depths of despair.

  • At the Atlantic, an Army vet explains what it’s like to try to go back to writing after years at war:

Within a few days, I took over as the head of marketing for a regional telecom company, but I had lost my ability to think creatively, to devise catchy phrases and effective copy. So much had changed since my career had been interrupted. I struggled to get out of bed on most mornings and found no meaning in the hackneyed Monday-to-Friday ritual. With my artistic soul seemingly gone, I began to wonder again what I was doing and why.

Happy reading!

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