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This novelist wanted to write about a serial killing author. He was just arrested for murder.

A magnifying glass.
A magnifying glass.

What a terrible week it has been for everyone. If you would like to know more about what happened in Charlottesville, Vox has you covered. If you’d like to read some books for background, I suggest starting with these. And if you would like to read something hopeful about being creative in the face of destruction, we’ve got that too.

If you would like to just spend some time thinking about books and their craft, you are in the right place. Welcome to the Vox weekly book link roundup, a curated collection of the best writing on the internet about books and related subjects. Here’s the best the internet has to offer for the week of August 13, 2017.

  • Several years ago, the Chinese novelist Liu Yongbiao wrote a book called The Guilty Secret (clue number one), and in the preface said he wanted to write a crime novel about a writer who commits a string of murders and is never caught (clue number two). Last week, he was arrested for murder:

According to The Paper, a news website, Mr. Liu was arrested early Friday at his home in Nanling County in the eastern province of Anhui.

“I’ve been waiting for you here all this time,” Mr. Liu reportedly said to the police when they arrived at his house.

Strange as it is to say, Solnit’s newfound popularity reveals more about her readers than it does her. That the book, and her other suddenly timely work, was not written in the last several months, but rather years prior, makes its ideas seem even truer, giving it the veneer of sacred text. She has become a Cassandra figure of the left, her writing, which seems magically to have long ago said the things that many Americans now most want to hear, consumed as both balm and rallying cry.

The act of seeing involves the whole body and all the other senses — it is not an abstract enterprise, but very physical — and that the things observed always come together in the brain with a delay, so that we basically live in the past. Everything we see has already happened. And finally, that the feeling of flow we all know, when we are so deeply immersed in something that we lose track of time and who we are, has a neurological explanation: In a state of flow, the activity in the frontal lobe is reduced, it is almost shut down — and it is in the frontal lobe the ability for abstract thinking situated, the planning for the future and the sense of self. Everything that makes us human, in other words, and that makes perfect sense: You lose yourself and sink into a state of pure being, like an animal — belonging to the world, not to yourself.

Whatever it was she was looking for at the Times, it wasn’t available. Under all these circumstances — a new boss demanding uncomfortable levels of team spirit, a lateral promotion denied — the buyout is perceived by some Times staff members as something short of completely voluntary. “There was a ‘didn’t play well with others’ aspect” to her departure, says one friend. If Kakutani jumped, there was a wind at her back. It must have been pretty strong.

The moment I heard about Silent Book Club, I got it. Here was an opportunity to be social but to also reconnect with my reading life. Time to relax in a bar without a stranger interpreting my book as an invitation to chat. A chance to read something beyond Dragons Love Tacos.

If my life is an essay, this trip is a transition, the small but necessary scaffolding that structures days. I am moving away from student and toward writer, France representing the inbetweeness of my present. There’s a question I want to answer: How does an essayist live inside her own walls? I want to touch them. I need to see.

  • The house that was used in the Harry Potter movies as Harry Potter’s parents’ place in Godric’s Hollow is for sale for just under a million pounds. Apparently it was also the house where the sister and youngest brother of Charles II and James II were kept under house arrest in the 17th century. Whoever buys that one can have some sweet theme parties.
  • At Atlas Obscura, Zoe Baillargeon tells the story of how a single word from a dying language became internet famous — but lost much of its original meaning in the process:

“A look shared by two people, each wishing that the other would initiate something that they both desire but which neither wants to begin.” Okay, now say that in one word.

Hard to distill, isn’t it?

But one word does exist to define this nebulous concept, a term originating from the highly endangered Yaghan language: Mamihlapinatapai.

Happy reading!