Welcome to the weekly Vox book link roundup, a curated selection of the internet’s best writing on books and related subjects. First, some housekeeping: I’ll be away for the next two weeks at the National Critics Institute, learning how to do this reviewing thing, so this is the last book link roundup you’ll get until July 20. Hold tight.
Here’s the best the web has to offer for the week of June 17, 2018.
- I have linked you before in this space to articles about the Open Book, the little Scottish bookstore by the sea that visitors can rent out and run for 28 pounds a night, but the entire concept pleases me so much that I feel no guilt whatsoever about linking you to another. New York Times book critic Dwight Garner spent a single and delightful day living the dream:
My first task as proprietor of the Open Book was one I hadn’t anticipated. What to write on the slate sandwich board that sits out front?
A favorite exhortation came to mind. With chalk I scrawled: “Read at whim! Read at whim! — Randall Jarrell.” For the opposite side, after a bit of puzzling, and given my physical and mental state, I shakily wrote: “Of course it’s all right for librarians to smell of drink. — Barbara Pym.” I set my board outside.
- At BuzzFeed, Jakob Maier examines the curious case of the comeback of Tao Lin, the alt-lit writer who briefly disappeared after being accused of emotional abuse and statutory rape, and who has now resurfaced with a bestseller:
I don’t regret reading Tao Lin on a bookstore floor back in 2010, or the direction in which he pushed my life. But I do want to know what accountability could look like for him, as it could look for other writers after accusations are leveled against them. I do believe, or hope rather, that people can change, and that communities can and should be willing to engage in the complexities of reconciliation, though that should never be at the expense of survivors, or freely given to abusers who refuse to fully and honestly make amends for their actions — both to the communities they are a part of and, most importantly, to the individuals they harmed.
- At Slate, Lili Loofbourow looks at Junot Díaz and the problem of the male self-pardon:
Díaz might be the closest thing we have in this cultural moment to a man with a deep and intensely articulated self-awareness about misogyny who still somehow participates in it. He himself theorizes this: “I don’t think men can transcend their masculine privilege,” he told Cabreja. “I don’t think that happens. I think the only thing that men can do is they can manage it. No man in the world stops being a vector for this most horrific of all dominant ideologies.”
- On the New Yorker’s blog, Edmund White writes about the link between books and sex:
Learning to be gay felt not unrelated to learning to be cultured. I forget everything now, but then I was gifted with nearly total recall; I remembered book titles, names of publishers, names of opera singers, names of operas. I was never a systematic, methodical reader. I didn’t read all of Aristotle but just the Nicomachean Ethics and the Poetics. Sometimes I felt I was registered in Cocktail Party 101; I wanted to be urbane more than erudite. My pornography, at the time, was black-and-white photos of male ballet dancers in tights.
- Authors Philip Pullman, Antony Beevor, and Sally Gardner are calling on publishers to pay their authors more after a new report showed that writers’ earnings in the UK have plummeted 42 percent since 2005, the Guardian reports. (It’s not much better in the US.)
- The New York Times has a new profile of Jonathan Franzen by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, one of our greatest working profilers. It deals with a lot of the common Franzen complaints, but especially with the idea that he is an angry man:
That’s how you handle anger. You avoid the triggers. You know your terrain. That six-page, single-spaced letter to Rafferty? Those midnight four-line sniper rebuttals? Those days are over. “That was a younger me in full prosecutorial mode. At a certain point, you just give up on trying to correct every false thing that’s said about you and devote yourself to the thing you can control, which is your own writing.”
- At Electric Lit, Helena Fitzgerald wrestles with how to handle her teenage love for Angels in America as an adult:
More than anything, I realized after seeing it on stage this year, Angels reminded me of my experience of Twitter, both how I once thought it was some strange and messy utopia, and how, in the years since then, it became clear that Twitter is not a universe but an echo chamber. The play and the website share a lot in common: Everyone is very angry and sick and everyone is horny on main. Everyone has big things to say about God and America. There are a lot of breathtaking two-sentence sentiments that sound perfect but maybe don’t hold together when examined.
- At Vanity Fair, crime novelists Gillian Flynn and Megan Abbott are in conversation on Gone Girl, Sharp Objects, and female rage:
I’ll tell you what concerns me: there’s a lot of shushing going on. I keep doing these panel discussions where I hear women advising that we shouldn’t be angry, that we shouldn’t be approaching this [#MeToo moment] with anger, that we should embrace this moment with care and gentleness. And I think that’s insane.
There’s a huge place for anger right now—particularly for the many, many women who’ve been violated—and this is a time to be angry. Let’s be very angry. Constructive anger is a very useful tool, and is a very important thing to express.