clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How a conspiracy theory about the Bosnian genocide infiltrated the Nobel committee

And the rest of the week’s best writing on books and related subjects.

Nobel Prize winner Peter Handke sitting in a shaded garden beside a table.
Nobel Prize winner Peter Handke in France, 2019. Handke has been accused of genocide apologism.
ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images
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 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 November 10, 2019.

In the best detective stories, the truth that’s uncovered isn’t limited to the name of the culprit. Mysteries, like works of horror, transmute nebulous fears into tangible dangers. The genre lends itself to exploring anxieties about the unknown and unknowable — shadowy territory that, for Harriet and many of the detectives who’ve followed, includes the contents of their own minds, or the substance of their own personalities.

  • There is apparently a library vigilante who believes that the public library system is anti-Trump and is retaliating by turning around the spines of books written by Trump opponents so that they are shelved backward. The Spokesman-Review has the story.
  • The prestigious Bread Loaf writers’ conference is ending a program in which students who attended on scholarship were asked to work as waiters. The New York Times reports:

Rojas Contreras recalled having to perform a song and dance for the other attendees one evening. “At one time it would have been more like a gentle hazing, when the conference was made up mostly of men, mostly of people of means, mostly white,” she said. “When the population changes, when women are waiters, people of color are waiters, queer people are waiters, then it is no longer a light hazing.”

  • There was a big dustup this week involving a college student who said she wanted to keep books written by YA novelist Sarah Dessen off her college reading list; the student was then roundly decried by many prominent authors, including Dessen, as belittling books for teen girls. At Jezebel, Emily Alford considers whether we are using teen girls as straw men:

The idea that the decision not to include a single YA novel on a single book list is automatically the work of the patriarchy creates a straw man of the teenage girl, oppressed by college coursework that is not interested in her experiences or her feelings. This teenage girl, regularly conjured up in the name of fighting sexism, is failed by an elitist literary world that denies her the only books she cares to read — young adult novels with characters who look and think like her. But what happens when the teenage girl does not enjoy books that authors insist are written for them? Does that girl’s or young woman’s opinion matter less? Dessen’s book did not give Nelson pleasure. Perhaps Nelson was dismissive in saying the book was written for teenage girls, but the book was, in fact, written for teenage girls.

His choices soon become more audacious. Going somewhere he would never go, getting to know people he would otherwise never meet. He pushes his patients to leave their families and jobs, to change their political and sexual orientations. His reputation suffers, but Rhinehart does not care. What he likes, now, is doing the exact opposite of what he would normally do: putting salt in his coffee, jogging in a tuxedo, going to work in shorts, pissing in the flowerpots, walking backward, sleeping under his bed. His wife finds him strange, but he says it is a psychological experiment, and she lets herself be lulled into believing it. Until the day he gets the idea of initiating his children.

Here’s what shocks me most about this Nobel Prize disaster. It’s not that the Nobel jurors fell for conspiracy theories. That’s terrible enough, of course. The worst is that the elevation of Peter Handke has also raised from the nearly dead a discredited rewrite of history and genocide. We are going back in time.

I am not an expert cryptozoologist and I will not claim to be one. I’m simply a person with a vested, professional interest in mysterious, supernatural creatures that may or may not exist; creatures like Bigfoot, Mothman, the Jersey Devil, etc. These beings are the stuff of legend, but apparently that’s not enough for the literary community. It’s easy to find books about “sexy” supernatural creatures like vampires and witches, but it seems that authors are too good to look down from their ivory towers and into their local woods, where the Flatwoods monster is probably rolling around in its big metal suit, hissing at children and emitting a noxious gas.

This week in books at Vox, we reviewed Carmen Maria Machado’s haunting new memoir In the Dream House. As always, you can keep up with all of Vox’s book coverage by visiting Happy reading!