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 16, 2017.
- The internet celebrated the life and legacy of Jane Austen on Tuesday, in honor of the 200th anniversary of her death. (Here at Vox, it was lit.) At the Huffington Post, Claire Fallon looks at the history of how so many people came to think of Austen’s books as chick lit:
In short, Austen’s empathetic portrayals of women in love are just as powerful as her caustic wit. The entire plot of each book hinges on at least one potential love match, featuring well-developed, charming heroes and heroines, which makes it easy to engage with them on the level of a romance novel. The romantic angle of Austen is easier to pick up on, and to replicate, than her social commentary.
- At the Atlantic, Megan Garber pays tribute to the female gaze in Jane Austen’s works:
It is the women, here, who do the bulk of the watching. And it is the men, here, who are generally the objects of their lookings: They are mysteries to be solved, puzzles whose pictures reveal themselves, with patience and time, piece by piece. Darcy is rich, and Darcy is handsome, and Darcy is terrible, and Darcy perhaps is more complicated than he first seemed, and Darcy is kind, and Darcy is a savior, and Darcy is whoa omg kind of amazing, and the plot moves to reveal each tantalizingly curved and occasionally interlocking piece until Lizzy, and thus the reader, is finally able to create a satisfying picture.
- And at LitHub, Rachel Dunphy argues in favor of Pride and Prejudice’s poor, much-belittled Mrs. Bennet (#TeamMrsBennet):
Unlike the rest of the family, prattling about feelings and manners and values and wit (yes, I mean you, Lizzie), she takes the plight of her children seriously, and she works tirelessly to ensure their futures. She schemes endless scenarios to endear her daughters to men of means, at one point orchestrating Jane’s prolonged illness (and thus residence) at Mr. Bingley’s Netherfield estate, at another attempting to force Elizabeth into an unhappy marriage with her cousin Mr. Collins, and at every chance throwing Lydia and Kitty toward an endless parade of military officers. Not all of her efforts are successful, to be sure, but marriage is a numbers game, and the Bennet matriarch is the sole, the necessary pragmatist in a house filled with idle dreamers.
- Finally, at the Washington Post, novelist Emma Straub assures us all that it is not too late to read your first Jane Austen novel:
What is most incredible about Jane Austen is that a couple of goofy novelist/booksellers can get so giddy about her books 200 years after her death. For those of us who write books that get published in the warmer months of the year, whose covers are splashed with bright colors and merchandised with inflatable beach balls, it is Jane who we’re channeling, Jane who we’re praying to, Jane whose wit we wish to possess.
- In non-Jane Austen news, here are some sci-fi/fantasy novels whose heroines are middle-aged women.
- At Publishers Weekly, John Maher looks at why only certain dystopian novels are getting that Trump bump:
Yet other titles appear to be equally relevant. John Brunner’s Club of Rome Quartet — comprised of the novels Stand on Zanzibar, The Jagged Orbit, The Sheep Look Up, and The Shockwave Rider — was released in the late 1960s and ’70s and correctly predicted, respectively, overpopulation, a U.S. mired in weapons proliferation and interracial violence, pollution-related ecological disasters, and the emergence of computer viruses.
- Remember when James Comey wrote that Senate testimony that read like a great American short story? He’s writing an actual book now, and although it is mostly about the incredibly dull and vague subject of “leadership,” publishers are understandably lining up for it.
- Winnie the Pooh, like Justin Bieber, has been banned in China, apparently because of some unflattering comparisons between the physical appearances of Pooh Bear and President Xi Jinping.
- This story of how book smugglers fought to save the Lithuanian language is fascinating:
Lithuanians went to great lengths to conceal their illegal books. The Forty Years of Darkness by Juozas Vaišnora reports of female smugglers who dressed as beggars and hid books in sacks of cheese, eggs, or bread. Some even strapped tool belts to their waists and pretended to be craftsmen, disguising newspapers under their thick clothes.
- The Guardian has a list of the 10 best opening scenes in books. I must object to the list on the grounds that I Capture the Castle doesn’t appear on it, but otherwise it is perfectly reasonable.