So a lot happened this week, huh? If you would like more information about world affairs and what exactly is even happening right now, I will direct you to the (newly redesigned!) front page of Vox.com, which will explain everything. But if you would like to take a break and spend some time thinking about books, here is our weekly curated collection of the best writing the internet has to offer on books and related subjects, for the week of April 2, 2017.
- Global English Editing has put together an infographic showing 20 of the most popular books in the world, throughout history. It’s fun to check out if only because where else will you see The Dhammapada and Fifty Shades of Grey on the same chart?
- The New York Times has a profile of one of the most interesting bookstores in New York, Greenwich Village’s Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books.
Two posters loom over the bookshelves dividing the sections. One is of Bob Dylan, holding a sign that says, “Over 35 Different Bob Dylan Books in Stock!” The other is a formal portrait of William Blake, pen in hand. It’s as if the two poets are the guardian angels of the store. Or, as Mr. Drougas says, “If I can’t sell Blake, what’s the point?”
- The wait for Hulu’s new TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood will soon be over, so Atwood is thoughtfully giving you something else to look forward to. She’s been dropping hints that she might write a sequel.
- The Pulitzer Prize will be announced on Monday. We don’t know the finalists — they aren’t announced until the winners are — but here are some predictions as to who will take the top prize for fiction this year.
- The Atlantic has managed the difficult task of publishing a truly hot take on modernist literature by asking if Kafka is overrated:
Kafka, the critic Jeremy Adler holds, is “less dazzling than Proust, less innovative than Joyce, [but his] vision is more stark, more painful, more obviously universal than that of his peers.” Kafka’s universality derives from his high level of generality. Places are not named; most characters go undescribed; landscapes, sere and menacing, appear as they might in nightmares. Joyce and Proust work from detail to generality; Kafka works from generality to detail, giving his fiction the feeling that something deeply significant is going on, if only we could grasp what precisely it is.
The problem with Marmee, always, is that she is right, but like only right within the truly fucked up scales of patriarchy. She’s a diagnostic genius, always on the lookout for symptoms in her daughters of the opportunistic infections that the seemingly uncurable systemic disease of patriarchy leaves them vulnerable to: excessive focus on their children, the anger that courses through them, their tendency to selfishly grab for some small pleasure like rats with cheese. I mostly hate what Marmee says, but truly what use is it to hate the Marmee and not the game?
- This week included April 4, which you recall is the first day of 1984 — the “bright, cold day in April” when all the clocks strike 13. LitHub has a collection of 50 other immortal fictional days. Somehow, I don’t quite see June 27 — the day of Shirley Jackson’s “Lottery” — becoming the next Bloomsday.
- At Guernica, Ayana Mathis writes about being both an ambitious writer and a black woman:
I am on a landline sitting on this couch in this apartment in Paris talking to Oprah Winfrey, and a cigarette would not be appropriate because, somehow, she might see me. I take a deep breath and I start over. “Hello,” I say. A great many things are said during our conversation, about my novel and literature in general. Oprah quotes Toni Morrison from memory. My goodness, I think, she really does read all of those books. On we go talking, and I might even sound a little bit natural because I am a good mimic and I can mimic “natural.” It’s all going very well until my girlfriend returns to the apartment and something in my tone (perhaps I don’t sound as “natural” as I think I do) makes her pause. She stands in front of me with her head cocked, listening. After a minute or so, she jabs at me with her index finger and starts waving her hands around and mouthing, exaggeratedly, like a silent film actress, “Is that Oprah Winfrey? Is that Oprah Winfrey?”