Happy New Year, and welcome back to the weekly Vox book link 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 first week of 2018.
- Fred Bass, owner of New York’s beloved independent bookstore the Strand, passed away this week. Electric Literature has collected memories of his life and career:
Fred Bass gave me my first job in books. I probably picked up more useful information during the summer of 1990, when I worked at the Strand between my first and second years at Columbia, than I did in any other three-month stretch of my life. Watching him sort thousands of books every day, barely pausing to accept his deli order, made those books real to me in a new way: as mysterious but knowable artifacts, with secret histories and reputations beyond their texts.
‘This is good. This is bad. This is good.’ ‘Is this good?’ ‘No.’
- At LitHub, David Williams tells the story of what happened when a parent tried to ban Fahrenheit 451 from school — and replace it with a book by Williams:
“Filth,” that parent called Bradbury’s work, as she pressed for it to be removed from an eighth grade reading list. The concerned mom leading the banning effort didn’t see its prophetic relevance. All she saw was a vulgarity, the word “bastard,” which she felt was inappropriate for her 13-year-old daughter. “I’m just trying to keep my little girl a little girl,” she said.
… Sure, my Amish protagonist and narrator doesn’t use vulgarity in the face of the world’s collapse. Because he’s Amish. Old Order Mennonites don’t tend to swear like sailors. But my story contains its fair share of death and murder and human horror, at least as graphic as anything you’ll find in Bradbury.
- At the Paris Review, Adam Valen Levinson and Morgan Parker discussed communication and multiplicities of meaning:
Full-body communication is way harder to misinterpret because it taps into biological and social things that go back millions of years. Even orangutans smile at each other. So when you tell somebody, Hey, shut the fuck up, and you’re smiling, our brains are like, Cool, dude, I’m on board, I get what you’re doing there. It takes so much longer to establish trust over text, and I feel like we think we’re just establishing all this trust and communicating, but we’re not. There’s such a narrow range of expressions in text.
- You may have heard a few stories this week about Fire and Fury, journalist Michael Wolff’s exposé on the Trump administration’s first month in office. Publisher’s Weekly reports that the book is flying off the shelves — and that was the case before threats of a libel suit from Trump:
The pre-publication media leaks about the book combined with the president’s public furor over the title have driven anticipation for it through the roof. Independent booksellers are now scrambling to get the title, which had been set for a January 9 release. At press time, the book was out of stock at both Amazon and bn.com.
- At Hazlitt, Haley Mlotek muses on the mystery of the self-loathing woman writer:
Did those women hate themselves, or did they write about their relationship to a world that hated them? Wasn’t self-loathing the symptom, rather than the condition? And anyway, why did we have to consider it in terms of a diagnosis? I thought the inquiry was a statement trying on a question for size, and said as much. I went looking for an answer that would improve the question, which either did not exist or I was not able to find.
- Geraldine DeRuiter visits the oldest operating bookstore in the world:
The Bertrand smells faintly of old wood and vanilla. Sloping archways connect room after room after room. The inner rooms look modern and recently renovated, but every now and then there is a pillar, or an exposed stone, or a strangely uneven piece of floor to remind you that when this shop opened, humans thought our solar system ended at Saturn.
- At the Guardian, Travis Elborough and Helen Gordon collect advice from famous writers:
“It has become increasingly plain to me that the very excellent organisation of a long book or the finest perceptions and judgment in time of revision do not go well with liquor. A short story can be written on the bottle, but for a novel you need the mental speed that enables you to keep the whole pattern inside your head and ruthlessly sacrifice the sideshows … I would give anything if I hadn’t written Part III of Tender Is the Night entirely on stimulant.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald
- At Book Riot, A.J. O’Connell writes in praise of reading aloud:
When you have little kids, you’re constantly told you should read to them, a mandate which conjures up images of parents reading Dr. Seuss to children. Children’s books are important, of course, but we’ve found that reading a book the whole family likes meets needs we didn’t realize we had.
- At the LA Times, Jessica Roy shares some tips to help you read more books in 2018:
I regularly read book reviews, and when I see something I like, I put it on hold. It’s not always immediately available, but I can use the [Los Angeles Public Library’s] site to track where I am in the holds list and see when my book is on its way. If a book you’re excited about is coming out soon, you can put a hold on it before it’s released and be at the top of the list.
(Sometimes I forget I put the book on hold at all until I receive an email saying it’s on its way, which is the free equivalent of getting a package you forgot you ordered from Amazon.)