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 January 13, 2019.
- At the Atlantic, Amy Hawkins and Jeffrey Wasserstrom walk through what censorship looks like in China — and why it means that you couldn’t reference 1984 on social media there last winter, but you could still buy a copy of the book if you wanted:
Here’s the rub: Monitors pay closer attention to material that might be consumed by the average person than to cultural products seen as highbrow and intended for educated groups. (An internet forum versus an old novel.) As a result, Chinese writers are watched more closely than foreign ones. (Liu Xiaobo versus Orwell.) Another rule of thumb is that more leeway is given to imaginative works about authoritarianism than ones that specifically engage with its manifestations in post-1949 China. (1984 versus a book on the Dalai Lama.)
- Speaking of dystopias! Here’s a new edition of Fahrenheit 451 you can only read by applying heat to the pages.
At the New York Times, Danielle Braff looks into the way scented candles have become a must-have book accessory:
It’s not enough just to read anymore. It’s not even enough to post your reading on Instagram anymore. Today, you have to create an atmosphere to show just how analog and sensual you’re being. That often involves … a candle.
When Ms. Prokott read “The Oracle Year,” by Charles Soule, about the not-so-positive events that occur when you can predict the future, she enhanced the experience with DW Home’s Warm Tobacco Pipe candle ($12), a moody blend of leather and woods. Liane Moriarty’s novel “Truly Madly Guilty” was served in bed, surrounded by a blanket, fishnet socks and a handmade eucalyptus candle.
- At Catapult, Jeanna Kadlec reads her breakup through the love letters of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West:
Woolf’s Orlando, based on and dedicated to Vita, was a novel that doubled as an epic love letter. It also marked a distinct turning point in their relationship. Their letters from this period are desperate and heavy, the start of a slow dissolution of the romantic and sexual component of their relationship. In October 1927, Virginia wrote to Vita, Never do I leave you without thinking, it’s for the last time.
When I first read those lines, I thought, how lucky am I, to finally be in a relationship where I’m not constantly checking for an exit door.
- So the largest daily newspaper in Maine announced it was going to stop publishing regional book reviews. Stephen King called it out on Twitter. Then the paper said it would keep publishing the reviews if they got another 100 subscriptions:
While some criticized the newspaper for offering to reinstate the book reviews only in exchange for subscriptions — “The word ‘blackmail’ was used,” Mr. Bodwell said — Ms. DeSisto credited her employees for asking the community to pay for the journalism they want.
“Look, we didn’t want to cut it either,” she said. “We needed to be more direct about the challenges we’re having and we needed their support.”
- The Authors Guild has published its 2018 income survey, and the results are grim: The median income of American writers is now $6,080. The Authors Guild by and large blames Amazon for this state of affairs, but Amazon is strongly disputing the Guild’s findings. Meanwhile, at Electric Lit, Carrie V Mullins argues that the problem is not so much Amazon as it is all of us, and our belief that art should be free:
The survey results made me wonder if that would be enough—if it’s possible, in the age of the Internet, to reverse the belief that content should mostly be free. By content I do mean to encompass all ends of the artistic spectrum, that ill-defined mass of high and low entertainment and art and news that rubs up against each other on the web in a way that makes it more difficult to separate out, and perhaps less meaningful to do so. Basically, people are insatiable for this panoply of words and images; they want mass input.
- At Vulture, Hillary Kelly traces how it was that the villainous bitch became the most boring trend in literature:
Every unhappy couple is now unhappy in exactly the same way, and every unhappy woman is a rotten-to-the-core fiend with the interiority of a Muppet (apologies to the Muppets). Adèle and its shelf-mates have been lured by the siren song of Bad Girl Literature — novels conceived entirely around the premise that women will read and share them with delight because the protagonists are naughty, or downright psychopathic, and that this represents a new horizon in literature.
- At LitHub, Amy Rowland keeps company with the literary women who live in boarding houses:
Muriel Spark’s young women of 1945, who lived at the May of Teck Club for the “Pecuniary Convenience and Social Protection of Ladies of Slender Means,” could have been right down the hall. Sadly, though, I met no one who had a taffeta Schiaparelli evening dress that was shared among the women for formal occasions. I had special affection for Spark’s Jane, who was engaged in “brain work” in “the world of books.” She liked to ask writers, “What is your raison d’être?” I tried this a few times myself, but as the response was “What’s my raisin debt?” usually followed by “You talk just like Holly Hunter!” I gave up and stopped approaching people altogether.
Meanwhile, here’s a rundown of the past week in books at Vox:
- Marie Kondo and the fantasy of a tidy life, explained
- How books for teens are doing politics in 2019
- What the Jill Abramson book scandal tells us about publishing’s fact-checking problem
- The author of “Cat Person” has a new book out. It’s full of sex and dark as hell.
- Why Buddhism is true
- Book lovers, relax: Marie Kondo is not coming for your books
- Pulitzer-winning poet Mary Oliver has died at 83
As always, you can keep up with Vox’s book coverage by visiting vox.com/books. Happy reading!