Welcome to Vox’s weekly book link roundup, a curated selection of the week’s best writing on books and related subjects. Here is the best the internet has to offer for the week of April 16, 2017.
- At Jezebel, Anya Jaremko-Greenwold spent an hour in Emily Dickinson’s bedroom:
It’s from her bedroom that Dickinson composed everything. “Dickinson’s genius always kept a fixed address,” Dan Chiasson wrote in a December 2016 issue of the New Yorker. “She was a scholar of passing time, and the big house on Main Street was the best place to study it.” The room has pink-flowered wallpaper (based on 19th-century wallpaper fragments found during the restoration), lace curtains, a small single bed, a chamber pot, a writing desk with ink and convincingly scribbled-upon paper, six tattered books, a stove, a face-washing basin, a picnic basket, a rocking chair, and a clock forevermore reading 6:05—a time that could indicate dawn, when the birds rise, or the golden-soaked dusk of summer.
- Nineteen years ago, Bill O’Reilly published a book about a disgraced TV news personality on a killing spree. The day after Fox fired him, Jia Tolentino read it for the New Yorker’s website:
In one scene from the novel, a psychologist surmises that Michaels’s career was the source of “his feelings of omnipotence and grandiosity.” He continues, “Because Michaels was a success on television, it reinforced his opinion that he was a very special human being. He got the attention he craved, the admiration of thousands. Being on TV was like a drug to him and when it was taken away from him, he had to find a substitute drug.” Later on, Michaels explains to Van Buren, “If you’re paid the big bucks, then you have to carry the ratings. So not only do you have the pressure to perform flawlessly, but you also have to worry about how many people are watching. That kind of pressure makes people crazy.” Van Buren asks Michaels why the TV business attracts so many bad people, and he answers, “The same reason politics does. Power.”
- Speaking of O’Reilly and books, his publisher might stand by him even though he’s been outed at Fox News, because he will likely continue to rake in millions in sales for them.
- Cormac McCarthy’s thoughts on the unconscious, language, and the relationship between them are so complex and fascinating that I am willing to put aside my antipathy toward his ideas about how to use apostrophes to share them with you here:
Bear in mind that the unconscious has no pencil or notepad and certainly no eraser. That it does solve problems in mathematics is indisputable. How does it go about it? When I’ve suggested to my friends that it may well do it without using numbers, most of them thought—after a while—that this was a possibility. How, we dont know. Just as we dont know how it is that we manage to talk. If I am talking to you then I can hardly be crafting at the same time the sentences that are to follow what I am now saying. I am totally occupied in talking to you. Nor can some part of my mind be assembling these sentences and then saying them to me so that I can repeat them. Aside from the fact that I am busy this would be to evoke an endless regress. The truth is that there is a process here to which we have no access. It is a mystery opaque to total blackness.
- At Huffington Post, Katherine Brooks discusses the problem of tsundoku: book hoarding.
According to Quartz, tsundoku has quite a history. It originated as a play on words in the late 19th century, during what is considered the Meiji Era in Japan. At first, the “oku” in “tsunde oku” morphed into “doku,” meaning “to read,” but since “tsunde doku” is a bit of a mouthful, the phrase eventually condensed into “tsundoku.” And a word for reading addicts was born.
- The forthcoming Fahrenheit 451 movie will star Michael B. Jordan as Montag and Michael Shannon as Beatty. Personally, I am inclined to think Jordan is almost too charming and likable for Montag — I’ve always found that character a little dour and dull — but I look forward to being convinced otherwise.
- In the LA Times, Viet Thanh Nguyen has a very beautiful essay on the value of ignorance:
For the next nine years, I learned about grief as I worked on that damned short story collection. I did not know what I was doing, and what I also did not know, facing my computer screen and a white wall, slowly turning pale, was that I was becoming a writer. Becoming a writer was partly a matter of acquiring technique, but it was just as importantly a matter of the spirit and a habit of the mind. It was the willingness to sit in that chair for thousands of hours, receiving only occasional and minor recognition, enduring the grief of writing in the belief that somehow, despite my ignorance, something transformative was taking place.
- You might recall that last week, we looked at the cases for and against focusing on world building in literature. At Electric Literature, Martin Rezny makes another argument for the pro side:
On the most basic level, not worldbuilding in a fictional world with some element of asking questions or solving mysteries is like telling a riddle, making people guess what the answer is the whole time, and then showing that the author never thought of any answer, or could only think of a really underwhelming one. That doesn’t mean the author has to spell out the whole answer explicitly, but there’s a difference between it not being divulged, and it never having existed in the first place. Like a murder mystery where anyone could be the killer randomly, or where the first and most obvious person accused ends up being the killer.