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 28, 2018.
- The Guardian has a long profile of British classicist Mary Beard, in which her entire life appears to be essentially #goals:
Everyone who has met Beard seems to have a story about encountering her for the first time — usually involving her rigorous intellect, her total lack of formality, and her sense of mischief. One of her former students, Emily Kneebone, remembers supervisions — one-to-one or two-to-one teaching sessions — at Newnham, the women-only Cambridge college to which Beard has been attached for most of her adult life, first as a student, then as a don. She would teach from a chaise longue: “At first she’d be in a normal position, but as the hour progressed she would gradually slide further and further down so you could only see her feet.”
- At BuzzFeed, Jaime Green offers us a political reading of romance novels:
Romance balances between contradictions: It’s not didactic, but it offers readers inspiration and aspirations for their lives. It’s not an impossible fantasy, this crazy idea that women should be loved and happy, but with all those billionaires and dukes with six-packs and tree-trunk thighs, romance isn’t meant to be realism, either. And romance authors don’t set out to convert their readers’ politics. But they do want to reach readers’ minds. North said, “I don’t think reading a book necessarily makes you an ally, but it can open you up to being one.”
- Jaime Green is in fact killing it this week. She also wrote beautifully for Electric Literature about the experience of reading for 24 hours within a 48-hour span:
I slipped into a way of being I’d forgotten I had. Not reading for twenty minutes on the subway, or an hour or two on the couch between weekend errands and chores. Reading forever, reading without a horizon in sight. Reading as a base state, a way of being. Certain books had brought me back to that place in adulthood, temporarily. But this time it wasn’t the books, good as they were — it was me.
- Virginia Woolf’s photo album has been digitized, and it showcases some truly awe-inspiring hats.
- Have you ever noticed that Charles Darwin used really specific color terms in his writing, with all those descriptions of the “primrose yellow” sea slug and the “hyacinth red and chestnut brown” cuttlefish? At the New Yorker’s website, Michelle Nijhuis walks us through the book of colors Darwin used to describe the world:
Specimens could degrade, paintings could fade, and color photography was still a far-off dream, but with Syme’s help Darwin could encode the colors of an unfamiliar world—and carry them safely home. When his “Journal of Researches” (now known as “The Voyage of the Beagle”) was published, in 1839, one reviewer called Darwin “a first-rate landscape-painter with the pen.”
- At LitHub, Emily Temple collects 13 writers who came to hate their own books. Here’s Anthony Burgess on A Clockwork Orange:
We all suffer from the popular desire to make the known notorious. The book I am best known for, or only known for, is a novel I am prepared to repudiate: written a quarter of a century ago, a jeu d’esprit knocked off for money in three weeks, it became known as the raw material for a film which seemed to glorify sex and violence. The film made it easy for readers of the book to misunderstand what it was about, and the misunderstanding will pursue me until I die. I should not have written the book because of this danger of misinterpretation, and the same may be said of Lawrence and Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
- As a book critic who has more than once thrown a promising thriller across the room because it opened with a lingering description of a woman’s dead body, I am delighted to hear that there is a new prize for thrillers “in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered.”
- A French journalist asked Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Nigerian novelist who wrote Americanah and We Should All Be Feminists, whether there are bookstores in Nigeria, so that’s where we are today.
- Amazon appears to be contemplating changing its royalty rates for self-published authors to encourage exclusivity, reports Forbes:
While many have voiced concerns over another royalty tier that would impact their bottom line — one author writing on the KPD forums summed up the speculative 50% royalty rate as “another way for them to suck authors into their monopoly” — Penn has a more positive view.
”Personally, I’d love the 50% royalty rate to be an option for authors who want to be in KDP Select but don’t want to be exclusive to Amazon,” Joanna says.
- At LitHub, Rosalie Knecht analyzes the ways the Anthropologie aesthetic capitalizes on the fantasy of the midcentury European writer’s life:
For years I got Anthropologie catalogs even though I had never bought anything from them. I requested the catalogs from their website, and signed up again every time I moved. The catalogs are beautiful, and they gave me that slightly doubled feeling that you get, as a consumer, when you encounter marketing that understands your desires better than you would like to admit. You resent the presumption but are compelled by the material.