Welcome to Vox’s weekly book link roundup, a curated selection of the internet’s best writing on books and related subjects. Here’s the best the web has to offer for the week of August 5, 2018.
- At the Outline, Kit Haggard tracks the rise of queer fabulism in writing:
It is a mode that’s ideally suited to capture the inherent strangeness of a marginalized experience. Recently, this has given us a number of collections and novels that use fabulism as a way of speaking to queerness. Surrealism — the queering of reality — has become a tool for accessing or depicting the reality of inhabiting a queer body.
- Digital newspaper archives have revealed that Langston Hughes is actually a year older than we thought he was. The New York Times has the story.
- A group of authors banded together to take down a piracy site, and now the pirates are accusing the authors of being “elitist.” We take this opportunity to remind you that libraries allow you to take out books at no cost while also paying authors. Libraries are great!
One user wrote that “writers are the most pretentious pieces of shit I’ve ever seen. I’ll find another way to pirate your books assholes.” Another complained that “reading is becoming one of the most expensive and restrictive hobbies across the globe”, while a third lambasted the “snitches” who took down the website, calling them “anti-poor, classist and exclusionary”. On Reddit, OceanofPDF users were mourning its demise and looking for alternative routes to free ebooks.
“Nurses, doctors, teachers, refuse collectors all work and get paid for it. Authors and illustrators work and are called elitist for wanting the same – to be paid,” former children’s laureate Malorie Blackman tweeted. “Giving our work away for free means no money to pay our bills, live or write/draw. It’s not a hobby, it’s my job.”
- There’s a new bookstore in China that’s designed to look like a cloud. Domus Academy has the very pretty pictures.
- At LitHub, Emily Temple delves into Shirley Jackson’s biography and learns that Jackson was possibly a witch, and definitely played the zither:
She plays the guitar and sings five hundred folk songs . . . as well as playing the piano and the zither. She also paints, draws, embroiders, makes things out of seashells, plays chess, and takes care of the house and children, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. She believes no artist was ever ruined by housework (or helped by it either). She is an authority on witchcraft and magic, has a remarkable private library of works in English on the subject, and is perhaps the only contemporary writer who is a practicing amateur witch, specializing in small-scale black magic and fortune-telling with a Tarot deck. . . . She is passionately addicted to cats, and at the moment has six, all coal black.
- Also at LitHub, Gabrielle Bellot examines We, a totalitarian dystopia that may have inspired 1984:
Zamyatin had composed the novel under the increasingly bloody grip of Lenin’s Russia, and though We is set centuries in the future, its technocratic society bears obvious resemblance to 20th-century dictatorships. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the iconoclastic Zamyatin—who had been jailed by the Bolsheviks prior to writing We—found his novel swiftly condemned and suppressed by the regime in power. So successful was the suppression campaign, indeed, that it would be years before the book began attracting attention, and, even then, it never managed to rise high out of the night-swamp obscurity it had been condemned to, despite praise by Orwell and Ursula Le Guin, the latter of whom declared it in 1973 “perhaps the finest science-fiction novel ever written.”
- At JStor Daily, Livia Gershon delves into the time when being a librarian was considered too dangerous for women:
A number of female librarians did experience breakdowns, requesting long leaves of absence to recover. In 1900, the Brooklyn Public Library Association proposed “to build a seaside rest home for those who had broken down in library service,” McReynolds writes. One speaker at the American Library Association’s 1910 conference claimed he knew fifty librarians who had become incapacitated by the work, including some who died before their time.
- At Atlas Obscura, Jessica Leigh Hester spends the day with librarians tracking down books for people who can’t remember the title or author:
The first case was cracked in just a few minutes, courtesy of a remote staffer who recognized the plot of Imbolo Mbue’s 2017 Behold the Dreamers. The room filled with a smattering of applause and enthusiastic dinging of the hotel bell. Someone made a hash mark on the dry-erase board. The staffers were in the zone, quietly murmuring to themselves. “There are a lot of murder mysteries about very wealthy relatives,” one person muttered, scrolling through a list. “Serial killers …” another trailed off. Then, the room fell pretty quiet again, until the next ring of the bell.
- At the New York Times, Edward Sorel looks into Henry James’s brief career as a playwright:
At the St. James’s that night were two different audiences. The orchestra was made up of literary and artistic Londoners and the author’s friends. Those in the balcony, however, were unfamiliar with James, and by the third act were fed up with Guy’s vacillations, and disgusted when he chose life in a monastery over the widow. After Guy delivered the play’s final line — “I’m the last, my lord, of the Domvilles!” — an angry voice shot through the darkness: “It’s a bloody good thing y’are!”
- In the UK, the right-wing populist UK Independence Party has suspended three members after they attacked a socialist bookstore in London:
Halifax described the support Bookmarks had received after the attack as overwhelming. Members of the public have been donating money to replace damaged stock and help increase the store’s security, while the singer and activist Billy Bragg and MPs David Lammy and Rupa Huq have voiced their support online.
“The normalisation of far-right politics is already leading to chaos and vandalism on our streets. Fascist thugs attacking bookshops is the logical conclusion to a political movement that rejects facts and experts. We need to be vigilant,” Lammy tweeted.
Meanwhile, here’s a rundown of the week in books at Vox:
- An autopsy of the American dream
- Meet a new kind of book, designed for the age of Peak TV
- A Stanford psychologist on the art of avoiding assholes
- The Mere Wife is an eerie, playful reimagining of Beowulf for the suburbs
- Why Buddhism is true
As always, you can keep up with Vox’s book coverage by visiting vox.com/books. Happy reading!