Welcome to the weekly Vox book link roundup, a curated collection of the best writing on the internet about books and related subjects. Here’s the best the web has to offer for the week of September 24, 2017.
- The internet has been buzzing this week with the news that in Roald Dahl’s first draft of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie Bucket was black. At the New York Times, Maria Russo and Catherine Keyser have the story:
So I think it’s neat that in this midcentury moment Dahl has this black boy get stuck inside a mold that fits him perfectly — he emphasizes that — everything about the mold fits Charlie, except once the chocolate inside the mold hardens, it’s uncomfortable! So what better symbol of what it’s like to be turned into a racial stereotype than a black boy who gets stuck inside a life-size chocolate mold and can’t be seen or heard through this chocolate coating.
- Also at the New York Times, newly appointed daily book critic Parul Sehgal explains how she approaches criticism:
The challenge for me is remembering that, in spite of the weekly pressures, my reviews can never be formulaic, that they always have to be full of pleasure, that they have to be full of delight — and that I have to stay fresh, and stay excited.
- On the New Yorker’s website, novelist and Sense8 writer Aleksandar Hemon explains the difference between writing a novel and writing for TV:
My solipsistic authorial habits would seem to feed into a common misconception about writing, which is that it is merely a conduit for the writer’s interiority, and that a good writer—or even just a capable one—possesses the skills to transfer the contents of that interiority onto the page with as little loss as possible. Much of the creative-writing industry depends upon that misconception and the promise, implicit or explicit, that the acquisition of those skills is unconditionally achievable. I’ve grown to be suspicious of that notion, as I have learned that writing generates the content and therefore transforms—or even creates—the interiority.
- At the Guardian, Emily Gera walks us through a Jane Austen RPG:
This story, in other words, is about a competition. Austen’s narratives dwell on matters of the heart, but they’re also about positioning, strategy and working the system. The game has many of the classic features of conventional online fantasy adventures, but they have been Austenified. While World of Warcraft has Guilds, or teams of players who work together, Ever, Jane has families whose status can be influenced by the actions of individual players. Characters progress not just through experience but also by orchestrating social engagements and by avoiding scandal through dialogue. Quests take the form of social gestures that raise your character stats.
- At the Awl, Bryan Washington examines why novels by authors of color are so often assumed to be autofiction:
Every author I spoke to was, to varying degrees, aware of the assumptions of autobiography. Some of them cast it off as a necessary evil. Others deemed it par for the course. All of them grabbed those assumptions and molded them for their benefit. But there is a profound difference between acknowledging an event may be derived from lived experience, and assuming that a group of others is capable of no more than direct transcription. While authors of color find ways to work within those parameters, none of us, for the time being, is entirely immune to those assumptions.
- Were you aware that the UK publishing industry prides itself on its book covers, which it holds to be 20 years ahead of the allegedly pitiful excuses for cover design we get over here in the US? I myself was not, but according to Danuta Kean at the Guardian, such is the case — or it was. Kean worries that the UK’s high standards might be slipping just as the US is pulling ahead:
One jacket designer, Stuart Bache, says the gulf between British and US design has narrowed in recent years, especially in literary fiction. Traditionally, US design tended towards literal interpretation, driven, Bache believes, by the complexity of the US market: the image that motivates readers in southern California to pick up a copy of a book is likely to be different to what appeals to readers in South Carolina. As a result, US jackets have tended to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and that does not make for good design.
- In remembrance of Hugh Hefner, LitHub has rounded up 10 of the best short stories published in Playboy.
- Apparently Marcel Proust paid to have good reviews of Swann’s Way put in the newspaper. Look, everyone was doing it.