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How romance writers are changing their fantasies in the age of #MeToo

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 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 week of March 4, 2018.

  • After weeks of anonymous comments and rumors, three women have gone on the record to say that Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, sexually harassed them. NPR has the story.
  • The Alexie story is uniquely troubling for children’s literature because Alexie is often treated as the “token Native” on syllabi. At Electric Lit, Theodore C. Van Alst Jr. discusses what the accusations mean for Native writers:

As an extremely popular writer in the mainstream who has written a number of young adult works, Alexie is often the only Native voice heard in many social studies, language arts, and English curricula. White writers and scholars may find themselves wondering, “who should we get to replace him?” They may not even realize that this question highlights the gates that tend to surround Native lit, their complicity in maintaining them, and the consequences of their actions  —  actions which are akin to literary colonialism.

“I woke up on 9 November and I was like, ‘I can’t write another one of these rich entitled impenetrable alphas. I just can’t,” says the New York Times bestselling author. “It was the story of that horrible impenetrable alpha evolving through love to be a fully formed human, which is a thing we do a lot in romance. And I just couldn’t see a way in my head that he would ultimately not be a Trump voter.”

  • At Electric Lit, Kasia van Schaik explains why she left her boyfriend to enter a PhD program — or, in other words, left her boyfriend for books:

The pursuit of an intellectual life and the desire for intimacy should not have to be mutually exclusive. Yet, for many women  —  particularly, women writers, academics, and artists  —  this continues to be the case. They are faced with a choice between the cultivation of love, companionship and family, and a retreat into solitude and creative work. Of this gendered double standard the poet and essayist Leslie A. Miller writes, “The image of the male poet in retreat can be attractive to society. But the image of a female poet in retreat is somehow against nature, a liability that can lead to emotional bankruptcy.” There is, thus, a form of solitude that attends the female artist, one that suggests deviance, stubbornness, abnormality and precarity.

L’Engle has a gift for baiting intellectual hooks, for making life feel irresistibly mysterious. What I remember most about her “Wrinkle in Time” quintet, which I read as a grade schooler in the early aughts, is the fiercely pleasant torture of forcing my imagination to bend in bizarre ways. To read L’Engle is to enroll your brain in a yoga class four levels too advanced.

“You had that psychiatrist,” I said, “the one who diagnosed you with an excess of ambition.”

“Oh yes,” she said, with a light laugh. The laugh of someone who is generous in triumph. “He recommended I go work in a dress shop.”

Could she ever imagine a doctor saying such a thing to a young woman now? “Probably people wouldn’t dare couch it in those terms, but things have really not got a lot easier for women,” she said. “The agenda of control has just become less overt. People still have a tremendous struggle in trying to live a woman’s life, and trying to bring up children and go out there and be an actor in a world that is still so much a man’s world. We still work to a man’s timetable and a man’s agenda.”

Designing classics has its own unique set of pressures: on one hand, you want to create a design that is appealing and contemporary enough to bring in a new audience of readers; on the other hand, you don’t want to alienate those readers familiar with the original cover — one that they might be very fond of.

  • Speaking of cover design! Before he became a great American painter, Edward Hopper did the illustrations for pulp stories. LitHub has the details.

Happy reading!

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