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What Blackbeard read on his pirate ship

And the rest of the week’s best writing on books and related subjects.

Yachting-Canada-ceremony Alice Chiche/AFP/Getty Images
Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

Welcome to the weekly Vox book links roundup, a curated collection of the internet’s best writing on books and related subjects. Here’s the best the web has to offer for the week of January 7, 2018.

  • Pirate book news! Pirate book news! Archaeological conservators found paper fragments on the ship of the 18th-century pirate Captain Blackbeard, and have determined he was reading Captain Edward Cooke’s A Voyage to the South Sea.
  • At the New Republic, David Dayen reports that while Amazon receives massive tax incentives to create jobs, many of its jobs pay so little that workers need food stamps to survive:

This reflects a perverse form of double-dipping: Amazon gets a bounty to create jobs in Ohio, and then a good chunk of the jobs are so low-paying that workers have to seek federal assistance, providing a second subsidy for the e-commerce giant.

  • At LitHub, Ann Hulbert tells the tale of Nathalia Crane, the celebrated child poet of the early 20th century. Here’s part of a poem she wrote at age 9:

“The History of Honey” by an aged mandarin,

And I bought it for the pictures of the burnished bees therein.

For the dainty revelations, masquerading up and down,

For the odor of the sandalwood that talked of Chinatown.

According to the mandarin, the Oriental bees

Were the first to hoard their honey in the mountain cavities.

It was perfectly reasonable, then, for my accountant to suggest that I leave Deloitte and write full time. “Look at the numbers,” he said. “Why continue to work at a job that pays less than what you earned selling one book?” Are you fucking crazy? I thought. “This is just a one-time thing,” I told him. “Besides, I don’t know if I could write if I didn’t work.”

Almost all of these pieces mischaracterize what sensitivity reading is. It’s a targeted beta read. I’m not the diversity police officer, policing non-marginalized people. No. Really what we’re doing is helping the author write a better book.

Sooner or later, the voice in my ears ceases to be a voice. It becomes the words, the words become sentences, and the sentences become the story. At some point, the voice in my ears merges with my own voice the way the words on a page once became my own inner voice when I still read print. This happens less consciously, perhaps not even literally, when listening to professional narrators. Other times, with the less polished volunteers who recorded my textbooks or, years later, the digital voice of screen-reading software, the translation to an inner voice is more conscious.

Old houses (mansions and cottages alike) are haunted: obviously they are. I’m not talking about transparent ladies wringing their hands and headless knights. But just as you and I are present in what we write, the masons and carpenters who make houses are—in some way that I’m not going to try to define—always still there. And so are the people who have lived in the rooms. Hauntings can be consoling—a sense that the past hasn’t been entirely lost. Frightening too, of course. The whole gothic tradition, of creaking doors and guttering candles and eerie whimperings coming from the deserted wing, has to do with our anxious sense that as living beings we have usurped the dead.

Happy reading!

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