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 April 8, 2018.
- At Electric Literature, Erin Bartnett interviews librarians for their policies on lending books to friends. I lent a book to an acquaintance four years ago and am still waiting for her to mail it back to me from the new city to which she has since moved, so I will abstain from making any policy recommendations whatsoever here:
If the book is special to me, I give them a very earnest speech about how special it is and why, and tell them that I definitely want it back eventually. I guess this implies that normally my joy in them reading the book is greater than my joy in getting it back? Whatever, it works out fine.
- At LitHub, Emily Temple has collected Amazon’s best one-star reviews of The Great Gatsby:
Boring start, boring end, too many unnecessary things, too many whores. You’d have to be the person who loves Romeo and Juliet to like this book.
- Meanwhile, at the New York Times, novelist Jesmyn Ward tracks the way Gatsby changes with its reader:
While most young people admire Gatsby’s youthful love for Daisy — for the possibility associated with her economic and social class, and for who he was with Daisy, too, in that shining moment in time — there is much subtext that becomes clearer with age, subtext Fitzgerald must have been acutely aware of when he wrote “The Great Gatsby.”
- At Publishers Weekly, editor Rebecca Saletan of Riverhead Books explains why she loves editing. (As a book critic I try not to play favorites, but if I did, Riverhead would be one of them. They do good stuff, y’all.)
It was Matthiessen himself who gave me my first experience of being taken seriously as an editor, back when I was an assistant to the formidable Jason Epstein, and Peter was working on a collection of stories. One day he asked if I would look at one he’d been laboring over. Something was hampering it, but he didn’t know what. I read it and instantly saw — or rather, felt — what was off: The story was constructed on a hinge, and the hinge was stuck, much as an actual hinge might be.
- In one of those great cosmic coincidences that circles past irony and ends up at “yes, seems right,” the remains of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge have been uncovered in a wine cellar.
- At BuzzFeed, five women in publishing discuss the recent upswing of books about race and identity:
I honestly don’t think it’s a bubble. I think this is the point when minority experience is becoming fully integrated into the concept of what it means to live in America. We can’t be complacent, obviously; we need to keep underlining that we need to be treated as equal within the publishing industry. There might be ebbs and flows, but given how even the number of books by minorities in the current moment, such as it is, doesn’t even begin to come close to reflecting the actual demographics of America, I see this as the beginning of something much bigger rather than a phase.
- When I tried Electric Literature’s “describe yourself like you’re being written by a male author” generator, I got, “She had a butt like a tempestuous bedsheet, and I did not care to ravish her,” which, rude.
- At Atlas Obscura, Anne Ewbank delves into the question of why fantasy novels include so much food:
Maslen believes food is one of the distinguishing features of fantasy literature. Whether its butter-pie or stew, food acts as an anchor against novels’ horror and high stakes. Fantasy writers, he says, “are very keen not to just induce horror and terror, but also wonder, surprise, delight, and amazement.” When challenging readers with the frightening and strange, food “anchors their experience in something they know well.”
- At LitHub, Circe author Madeline Miller explains why she’s always hated the Circe episode of The Odyssey:
I had been pleased to see a character like Circe, so vivid and unusual and powerful. But of course that power was the problem. A woman who could control men was unacceptable. She must be corrected by the hero, set back in her place. Instead of Odysseus being transformed by her spell, she is the one changed: from potent, independent goddess to bedmate, helpmeet, patient nurse of men’s pain.
At 13, I couldn’t articulate all this, I just knew that something about the scene made my skin crawl. I quickly read onward, glad when Odysseus sailed off to face more monsters.
- At the Guardian’s books blog, author and literary agent Lauren Spieller explains where last week’s deeply entertaining Twitter hashtag #MisandryInPublishing came from, and why it matters:
Here’s the problem: while one man was behind the creation of #MisandryInPublishing, he’s not alone in his beliefs that women stand in the way of male authors being published. If the misogynistic vitriol that fills my inbox and my Twitter notifications is any indication, a lot of men feel this way. They believe that feedback is personal, that rejections are gender-biased punishment, and that if it were not for systemic and rampant hatred of men, I would be representing them and selling their book.
It’s a lot to do in a small amount of space. My favorite quote about criticism comes from Zoë Heller from her book Notes on a Scandal, and she says that kissing is trying to be creative in a small space. That’s what criticism can feel like on a good day — like kissing.