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Turns out Steve Bannon’s favorite novel is very, very racist

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

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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 February 4, 2018.

  • At the Paris Review’s blog, Zan Romanoff argues that if you think Lady Bird is unique, then you have been ignoring YA fiction:

There is actually a very rich tradition of this kind of writing available to you. You just have to know that you want it. And then you have to know where to find it.

Where to find it, of course, is on the young-adult shelves of every bookstore in America, which are piled high and bright with novels written by people—many of us women—who care deeply about how and why we tell the stories of teenage girlhood. We’ve been trying to do it carefully and beautifully and well for the space of our careers.

  • At LitHub, Emily Temple has rounded up the thoughts of 31 writers on the oft-quoted advice to “write what you know.” I’m not saying Henry James is a liar but this story definitely sounds fake:

Henry James talks about this in The Art of Fiction. He writes about a woman writer he knew who ran up the stairs of a little French house in Paris, and on her way up she passed a room with a door open and inside there was a meeting going on of French Huguenots—this was in the nineteenth century—and they were smoking cigarettes and talking. She was only there for half a minute; she paused and then she went on. Two or three years later she wrote a book about the Huguenots, and everything in it, as Henry James said, was absolutely true. She just went from that one moment.

Raspail’s enemy is the entire non-white world. It tramples monks and white saviors alike in its invasion of France. His refugees are nameless caricatures, with no inner lives. He ascribes to them an almost supernatural combination of obstinance and depravity. The smell of death is the first sign their rickety ships are about to land, because they dump their corpses in the sea. They are savages, led by a literal shit-eater, and they foist their poison dead upon the shores of Europe before their feet touch earth.

Katherine took to her diary to complain about the carelessness with which others treated their open secret, penning a particularly seething entry following a party where the hostess had, without warning, introduced them as Michael Field. With utter disgust, she described how a crowd of “fashionable women” pummeled them with compliments until she could take it no more. “I laid a master-hand on the hostess,” she recalled, and ordered her to introduce them by their Christian names, not their professional pseudonym.

When the Weinstein, Rose, and Lauer media powerhouses fell so quickly and so permanently, I was sure that the book publishing industry would also have its day of reckoning. After all, for decades, many in the industry have experienced the nightmare of sexual harassment and discrimination without a safe outlet for protection or support.

I also thought that, finally, the gross inequities in pay that still exist for women, the imbalance in the share of management positions held by men, and the profound lack of diversity within publishing houses and in what is being published would be widely and publicly acknowledged as publishing’s culture problem. I thought that serious efforts would be made, by people in the positions to do so, to take the critical steps needed to change the culture of our industry by promoting equality as well as humanity in its own ranks.

  • Scholars have used plagiarism software to identify a book that they think Shakespeare may have drawn from as he wrote his plays. Michael Blanding at the New York Times has the story:

In reviewing the book before it was published, David Bevington, professor emeritus in the humanities at the University of Chicago and editor of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (7th Edition),” called it “a revelation” for the sheer number of correlations with the plays, eclipsed only by the chronicles of Holinshed and Hall and Plutarch’s “Lives.”

My main character’s life and experiences weren’t centered on her being African, or black, or an immigrant — those were negligible, secondary. Her core conflict was that she was embodied: that she existed, that she had selves, that she was several. I didn’t know any other books by African writers that asked or answered the questions I was working with, but I very much wanted to find precedent. I figured that would tell me if what I was doing was permissible or possible, that it would allow me to predict the trajectory of the book and afford me some security. Sometimes we don’t get the reassurances we want; we make the work anyway. By then, I knew what it was like to look for books that reflected my world and not be able to find them. I know the power of people feeling seen, having access to stories that mirror their own, and what it moves inside them.

Happy reading!

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