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.
- Remember how we were just talking about the history of Peter Pan? The Strand magazine has just unearthed a rare play co-written by Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie:
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.”
- Book sales are decreasing during the Trump administration, the New Republic reports:
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.
- And at LitHub, Sean Gandert wonders if Trump has also killed satire:
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.
- Legendary book critic Michiko Kakutani is stepping down from her role at the New York Times. The Cut has collected some of her best burns, including this brutal assessment of Martin Amis’s 2008 essay collection The Second Plane:
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).
- The Man Booker longlist is out, meaning they’ve announced their semifinalists, basically. The list includes Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, which has already won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer (and was an Oprah’s Book Club pick!), so we’re about to see if he can pull off the hat trick. (Also on the list are Exit West and Lincoln in the Bardo, both of which I highly recommend.)
- At the New York Review Daily, Liana Finck tells the story of the time she interned for Maira Kalman, in lovely, whimsical cartoons.
- The much beloved and dearly departed website the Toast returned for a single day this week, because sometimes this cold, cruel world of ours gives us good things. Here is Mallory Ortberg’s understanding of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”:
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?”