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 December 17, 2017 — and our last book link roundup for the year.
- There is a virtual book club gathering on Twitter to reread Susan Cooper’s fantasy classic The Dark Is Rising. (The Dark Is Rising is the name of both a series and the second book in that series; this book club is focused on the book, which takes place over Christmas.) If you would like some inspiration to join in, here is Niko Maragos on why The Dark Is Rising is the perfect series for the end of 2017:
Despite being a story about Light and Dark, The Dark Is Rising sequence ultimately chronicles the paradigm shift to moral post-dualism. It is not concerned with restoring a prelapsarian dominion of Light where morality itself is obsolete. Although the apocalyptic conflict of the Dark and the Light is the overarching narrative of the novels, their endgame is quite different here from, say, the salvific destruction of the One Ring. The final triumph of the Light in the series’ last book, Silver on the Tree, is not a new heaven and new earth, nor a sundering of goats from lambs. There is no end to disease or death or evil. The only thing that ends is the dominion of external powers over the destiny of humankind, an abdication that also eliminates the possibility of a returning savior who retrieves the world from the brink of destruction.
- If you have already read The Dark Is Rising, you may recall Mari Lwyd — the Welsh horse skeleton spirit that appears in the final book of the sequence. At LitHub, Blair Beusman and Jess Bergman explain the legend of Mari Lwyd and arm readers with poetry to send it off:
The holiday season is upon us, bringing with it mistletoe, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and skeletal horses demanding entrance to our homes. Yes, it is nearly time for the annual appearance of Mari Lwyd: a horse skull with beer bottle eyes, shrouded in white linen and strung with ribbons and bells. Rigged with a mouth that could open and close like a puppet’s, Mari would recite verse to unsuspecting neighbors, who had to answer in turn or else ply the wassailers with beer, cake, and “a good deal of romping.”
- At Longreads, A.N. Devers explains how Brigid Hughes, the first woman editor of the Paris Review, was erased from the magazine’s history, after she was pushed out of the role in 2005:
The first question I asked McDonell, former editor of the Time Inc. Sports Group, was if, in his view, Brigid succeeded Plimpton or Gourevitch succeeded Plimpton.
“Oh, Brigid. Brigid did,” he answered.
“If that was the case,” I asked, “then why was Brigid Hughes completely dropped from the masthead of the Paris Review after she left?”
- Electric Literature surveyed indie bookstores to find out which books get stolen most often. Be less pretentious, indie book thieves.
The conclusion we’ve come to is that people steal books that they think will make them seem smart but perhaps have no intention of reading (and hence don’t want to pay for?). The link seems to be a sense of pretentiousness, looking at the specific books that walk.
- At Wired, David Pierce explains how the Kindle changed publishing, and how it might change books:
If Amazon wanted to, it could with a single act bring a new form of book into being. That's because Amazon has more or less vertically integrated the entire book industry within its walls, building a complete reading universe of its own making. Lots of authors now write books especially for Amazon, which readers find on Kindle Unlimited and Prime Reading, read on their phone and tablet, listen to through Audible or your Echo, and then talk about on Goodreads. Amazon has tools that help you write your book, format the manuscript, design the cover, file the right metadata, publish to the right places, and get paid the right amount. Want to make a comic book, a kids' book, or a textbook instead? Amazon can help there too.
- Did you see that Washington Post article expressing great surprise over the fact that while Jane Austen wrote marriage plots, she herself never married? The A.V. Club has gathered up the best responses, with the apt warning, “Do not fuck with Jane Austen Twitter.”
- Carmen Maria Machado, the author of Her Body and Other Parties, has written an ode to eggnog for the New Yorker:
Eggnog is a beverage with body, heft, structural integrity. It’s a cocktail, it’s a dessert; if deployed correctly, it’s a life-saving elixir. In 1947, an all-eggnog diet reportedly returned a starving hound to “the pink of condition” after he’d secreted himself into a car’s trunk for twenty-one days. A few years later, a Times reporter wrote, “Egg nog — and this is a Yankee speaking — is a liquid custard that is food and drink in itself; it has substance enough to stand alone.” Perhaps it is this contradiction that makes eggnog so special: it is treat and subsistence both.
- Margaret Atwood and Andrew O’Hagan had a long conversation at the Vancouver Writers Festival, and LitHub has now published the first part of it. It’s fairly sprawling — at one point, delightfully, Atwood starts to sing the praises of the fanfiction website Wattpad — but mostly, she and O’Hagan circle the question of whether the world is ending:
Atwood: Are we not seeing a proxy war between the Koch brothers on one hand, who back Mike Pence, and the Mercers on the other, who back Stephen Bannon? And are not Bannon and Pence sort of surrogate soldiers for these two very, very rich, powerful interests whose views somewhat differ? They’re both after total power. But on the Pence side you have the anti-women, anti-gay stuff, which I don’t think means much to Trump, to be honest. I think that’s … it’s not something that comes to him naturally. Maybe the anti-gay stuff. The anti-women stuff — he just considers them a subsidiary form of being, but he doesn’t much care about the Pence style of 17th century roping them in. And Bannon, his main interest is racial and nationalistic.
- At the London Review of Books, Priestdaddy author Patricia Lockwood looks back at the works of Joan Didion:
“I have figured out her rhythm,” I once told a friend in a diner in Iowa City, though I will not tell you what I ate, or what I was wearing. (A hamburger? Some sort of shirt?) ‘Her sentences are smooth, are smooth, are smooth, and then three-quarters of the way through the landing gear drops down.’ Her syntax returns to itself at the end, because it belongs to the structures of Henry James. This, combined with a straightforwardness of diction from Hemingway, gives you the sensation that you are going somewhere, then landing. And all the while you’re flying, music is piped in, poetry, a high-toned jingle in the collective head.