Welcome to the weekly Vox book link roundup, a curated selection of the best writing online about books and related topics. Here’s the best the internet has to offer for the week of July 9, 2017.
- Tuesday, July 18, is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. We’ll have some coverage on Vox on the day itself (get excited), but in the meantime, the New York Times has a few pieces you can use to prepare yourself. This Austen trivia quiz is appropriately tricky (I freely admit I only correctly answered seven out of 10 questions), the overview of Austen criticism is informative, and the essay on how Austen writes about mortality is gorgeous:
Once you notice that stillborn child, you begin to sense the specter of mortality ranging over Austen’s work — as evocative in her world, perhaps, as mortality itself.
- Also at the New York Times, Queen of the Night author Alexander Chee writes about his time in Greece:
When the couple asked where I was going, and I told them, they said, Sifnos is not as famous, just like that. They then told me a story about how it was known for its gold and silver mines, but after the islanders angered Apollo by sending him tribute made from gold plate, he flooded the mines. I imagined Apollo biting the tribute to see if it was real gold, and wondered if it was now famous for not being famous — some last affliction from the sun god.
- On the New Yorker’s website, Akhil Sharma explains why he hates his most famous short story:
I read “If You Sing Like That for Me” now and I find myself jumping out of my skin. After each paragraph, I have to get up from my desk and pace around. Talking about the story, my tone becomes contemptuous. It is strange to think that, to readers, this story means nothing like what it means to me. It is strange, also, to think that I created Anita because I was at one time in love with X, and that while the sympathy I extended to my fictional character was worthwhile, the person who motivated it was arguably undeserving of the same.
- At NPR, Mat Johnson tells the story of what happens when you’re a novelist and your computer eats your manuscript:
Petrified is too static a word to describe the panic losing my novel sent me spiraling into. I thought my world would end if I lost that book, that it'd be like losing a life, the life I aspired to. I'd already spent years and written two unpublished novels to get to the point where I could create that book. That manuscript wasn't just a novel to me; it was the key to an entirely new reality, to my future.
- Here are some horrifying woodcuts of demons from 1863’s Dictionnaire Infernal.
- At Grub Street, Sierra Tishgart explains the business of publishing cookbooks — and why it’s so easy for chefs to lose money by writing one:
When a publisher agrees to buy the (future) manuscript, they offer an advance — often around $100,000 to $200,000 for a first-time chef-author — that’s paid out in installments. Money gets dropped when the chef signs, the manuscript is delivered, the book arrives in stores, and one year after its release. $125,000 isn’t a lot of money when it’s spread out over several years, and it seems like even less when you consider that chefs are responsible for paying to put the book together. Fischer says he paid his photographer $35,000, co-writer $30,000, designer $30,000, and bankrolled the recipe-testing and travel himself. Not only did he fail to profit, but he ended up spending more than his advance. “The hope,” says agent Monika Woods, “is that most of the money comes on signing and delivery, because the budget of a cookbook is crazy, and the chef and their teams usually have to bear the brunt of that.”
- At LitHub, Claire Luchette describes her stay in a Virginia Woolf-themed hotel room:
I asked for the Virginia Woolf room. I was told there’d be a cat and no Wi-Fi. I am allergic to cats and addicted to the internet, but I figured some time without a screen could do me good. The website promised I would have the chance to “[u]nplug, unwind, and sleep with [my] favorite author.” No, no, no. “I do not want to sleep with Virginia Woolf,” I thought on my drive to the hotel. I imagine she was a fitful sleeper. She probably had sleep apnea. Also, she’s dead. Dead people, by and large, make poor bedfellows.
- And also at LitHub, Brandon Taylor decides that when it comes to queer narratives, he doesn’t care what straight people think:
It is not enough to merely write queers in comfortable bourgeois captivity. You have not conquered some artistic challenge. You are not artistically pure for turning away from queer suffering. Our comfort and our agony are of a piece. They reflect one another across the length of our experience.