Welcome back to Vox’s weekly book link roundup, in which we curate a collection of the week’s best writing on books and related subjects. Here’s the best the web has to offer for the week of February 5, 2017.
- Stefan Zweig’s memoir about life in Austria in the lead-up to Hitler’s rise to power, 1942’s The World of Yesterday, is one of the most thoughtful and beautiful accounts of the rise of fascism you’re likely to come across. On the New Yorker’s website, George Prochnik reads Zweig in the age of President Trump:
Last week, as Trump signed a drastic immigration ban that led to an outcry across the country and the world, then sought to mitigate those protests by small palliative measures and denials, I thought of one other crucial technique that Zweig identified in Hitler and his ministers: they introduced their most extreme measures gradually — strategically — in order to gauge how each new outrage was received. “Only a single pill at a time and then a moment of waiting to observe the effect of its strength, to see whether the world conscience would still digest the dose,” Zweig wrote. “The doses became progressively stronger until all Europe finally perished from them.”
- This week marked Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 150th birthday. At the New York Times, Maria Russo looks at how her Little House books became an American mythology:
Both swaths of the American electorate can lay claim to the “Little House” mythology and the blueprint the books offer for a certain way to live in this country. For every grown-up “Little House” fan who’s now an artisanal pickle maker with a backyard composter, there’s another who’s an evangelical home-schooler dreaming of living off the land and off the grid.
- We talked a little bit last week about the poet Warsan Shire, whose poem “Home” has become a rallying cry against the Trump administration’s refugee ban. At LitHub, Marta Bausells discusses the importance of Shire’s work with Beyoncé:
To me, their collaboration represents the duality of this cultural moment: the anger and the hope, the despair with a politics that eliminates all pretense of normal life, the need to take action while also just putting one foot in front of the other. The visual combination of old snaps of Beyoncé’s family life, baroque pictures of her pregnancy — surrounded by flowers, saint-like, submerged in water — and Shire’s words — an ode to a black Venus and the mysterious power of motherhood — feels at once divine and grounded in nature, both saintly and full of life.
- Also at LitHub is a running list of all the books Trump has made great again and put back on the best-seller lists.
- At the Awl, Elaheh Nozari goes deep on the food writing of Haruki Murakami:
Murakami writes intricate plots with an extremely high level of emotional intelligence, but no matter how fantastical his stories are, his characters remain relatable, and food provides the balance between surrealism and normalcy. He weaves food into his stories in a mundane way that communicates the deep-seated reasons of why, how, and what we eat.
- A panel of experts have created an illustration of what the “ideal” Mr. Darcy would have looked like; the internet is disgusted to find that they didn’t just draw Colin Firth circa 1996.
- Stephen Sondheim, the great Broadway composer and lyricist, is this year’s winner of the PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award. No shade (I’m a Sondheim fan), but that’s the second time in the past year that a music guy has won a major literary award.
- Here is a list of literary agents participating in an open call for submissions from Muslim writers in response to the refugee ban.
- Jonathan Lethem, author of A Gambler’s Anatomy, talked to the Guardian about art, politics, and cultural appropriation:
“I hope that if my students chose to pick up The Fortress of Solitude, and were reading the chapters written from the point of view of the [African-American] singer Barrett Rude Jr, they wouldn’t see it as being any different from the extraordinary way that James Baldwin writes about — and from the point of view of — his white characters in Another Country.
“Now,” Lethem continues, “the immediate response to this is: wait a minute, you and Baldwin don’t have equal privilege, so it’s not the same act.” But what is crucial, Lethem insists, is “the ethical freight that comes with my understanding that Baldwin made his gesture from a different place, and then finding it possible to make my gesture anyway”. It’s by no means “a simple thing”; other people’s needs have to be deeply considered.