Welcome to the Vox weekly book link roundup, a curated collection of the best writing on the web about books and related subjects. Here’s the best the internet has to offer for the week of September 3, 2017.
- Indiana University has discovered an early unpublished short story by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s a giddy little satire with some weirdly feminist angles:
Coyly, he offered me a riddle. “When is a drone not a drone?”
“I give up,” I said.
“When is a file drawer not a file drawer?” said Quick. He opened the file drawer of the desk. In the drawer was a big wooden box with a hole in its top.
Two drones came out of the hole, buzzed stupidly, bumped into each other, waddled back to the hole, and fell in.
“Here,” said Quick raptly, “we have the first all-male beehive in history—a sort of bee Millennium Club, if you like. The food, which I provide, is rich and plentiful. Fellowship is the order of the day. And there is time for reflection and a relishing of life, away from the senseless, thankless, harrowing rush-rush-rush and moodiness of the female workers. Take a drone away from his Millennium Club, and he will be back like a shot!”
- And the estate of Winnie the Pooh illustrator E.H. Shepard has discovered some of his first illustrations of The Bear of Little Brain.
- For the New York Times, George Kalogerakis visits E.B. White’s farm:
It was a beautiful, tranquil spot. As we chatted outside the boathouse, a bald eagle, as if on cue, flapped away up the coastline. But there was a chill in the late-summer air, and of course there were those depressive crickets, with their sadness-and-change routine. Still, White had it right, in all his wonderful writing about seasons and rebirth and the rhythms of life: for his old farm, for the Gallants, for all of us, “the warm wind will blow again,” as Charlotte so reassuringly reminded Wilbur.
- Scholar Nicholas Gibbs claims that he has at last decoded the Voynich Manuscript, the medieval manuscript whose contents have remained a mystery for centuries:
The foldout diagram of nine illustrated spheres found in the Voynich manuscript proved the key to understanding it. The Voynich manuscript has been digitized by the Beinecke library, and this allowed me, at maximum magnification, to take a patchwork pencil tracing of the entire sequence of nine spheres. When I laid out my copy and turned it through 360 degrees, I noticed some interesting perspective properties.
- At the New Yorker’s website, Jia Tolentino profiles Louis Sachar, the beloved author of the Wayside School books:
The books are lovely little lessons in craft, structured as neatly as a Rubik’s Cube. Each book has thirty chapters, and Wayside School is thirty stories tall. There’s one classroom on each story, and a Schrödinger-esque situation on floor nineteen. (The nineteenth chapter of the first book, titled “Miss Zarves,” reads, “There is no Miss Zarves. There is no nineteenth story. Sorry.”) It’s high-concept, slightly menacing world-building—Shel Silverstein with hints of Barthelme and Borges.
- At Eater, Mackensie Griffin goes in depth on how literature’s greatest detectives eat:
While Poirot and Wimsey are deliberate about the foods they consume, their tastes are narrow: Poirot prefers his native European delicacies, like croissants, omelets, and soft cheeses; he generally frowns on English cooking, and he expresses the utmost horror when he is made to try Chinese food. Wimsey’s tastes are conservatively British, and when he is brought to the Soviet Club (where the Bolsheviks gather) in Clouds of Witness, he proclaims that “Cooking’s beastly, the men don’t shave, and the conversation gets my goat,” making it clear that he is not part of the new, liberal set of revolutionaries.
- All of the most beautiful bookstores in the world have formed a club, to talk about how it feels to be really, really incredibly good-looking:
It seemed to me those invited would have similar experiences about how to balance being a neighborhood bookstore as well as a place for photographs, so I looked forward to talking about how other stores had handled their beautiful status.
Livraria Lello, I learned, has a creative solution to that problem. They charge admission to their store, and the ticket price is applied toward the purchase of any merchandise a visitor buys. Other bookstores, like Shakespeare and Co., don’t allow photography at all.
- The buzzy new novel My Absolute Darling is starting to earn itself a bit of a backlash after a rapturous early reception (Stephen King called it a masterpiece). Personally, I liked it, but if you were on book Twitter on Wednesday you will have seen many derisive subtweets directed its way. At Electric Literature, Michele Filgate and Bradley Sides discuss whether or not it deserves the hype:
This is a survival story, and it works because the reader can’t help but root for Turtle. She’s not an easy character, by any means, but it’s her complexity that makes her feel like a living, breathing person. And you’re right: My Absolute Darling isn’t just about abuse. It’s also a coming of age story. Were there any moments where you felt frustrated with her?