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Beloved website The Toast returned for a single day, because sometimes we get nice things

The Toast J. Longo

Welcome to the Vox weekly 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 23, 2017.

The play’s setting is a hotel room and the characters besides the Victim are “an asthmatic husband, a devoted wife and a doctor.” The “weapon” is a mustard plaster, given to a man, the Victim, who doesn’t need it. “The Reconstruction of the Crime” begins with the Victim poking his head through the curtains and asking for quiet.

“Please don’t applaud,” he says. “Of course I like it; we all like it. But not just now. This is much too serious. The fact is I want to take you into my confidence: to ask your assistance. A horrible crime has been committed. An outrage almost beyond description has been perpetrated upon an inoffensive gentleman staying in a country hotel, and the guilty person has to be found.”

The news cycle has sucked the air out of the room. The disastrous and almost comically incompetent Trump presidency has both frightened the reading market away from popular books and functioned as a kind of mass entertainment with which it is difficult to compete, with Senate hearings and official testimonies becoming must-see TV.

I decided to place at the center of my story something I would come to call “The Great Wall of Freedom” — a huge, heavily armed and guarded wall between our country and Mexico. It would symbolize not just the fear and racism plaguing large parts of America, but also our drift towards isolationism. The wall we put up between ourselves and our neighbor represented, well, the metaphorical walls we put up between ourselves and our neighbors, particularly our neighbors who aren’t white. America, as I saw it, was giving up on the rest of the world, and with this, it was giving up on any notion of responsibility or respect for anything but itself.

Indeed “The Second Plane” is such a weak, risible and often objectionable volume that the reader finishes it convinced that Mr. Amis should stick to writing fiction and literary criticism, as he’s thoroughly discredited himself with these essays as any sort of political or social commentator.

  • The new daily book critic at the Times will be Parul Sehgal! I’ve always enjoyed her because she’s so unapologetic about being really into her nerdy intellectual interests. Here’s a piece she wrote recently on Daphne du Maurier, the author of Rebecca:

To women — some women, my kind of women — this book is something more, not merely beloved or popular but foundational. “Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life,” Muriel Spark’s Jean Brodie declared, and so it is with Daphne du Maurier. What begins as a taste for her twisty plots, briny wit and bracingly bleak view of marriage becomes an addiction (and one that can withstand some very purple prose).

Weirdly, the goblins sold most of their fruit in the late afternoon,

which is not a great time for fruit-selling because most farmer’s markets are in the morning. But timely or not, that’s when the fruit was available.

Lizzie tried to buy some fruit for her sister, and since the dwarves also stood to gain from the exchange, they definitely sold her some, instead of jamming cherries and whatnot into her face and ripping her hair out.

Which would be a completely inappropriate response,

as a seller of fruit, to someone who said, “Hey, can I buy some fruit?”

Happy reading!