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A just-unsealed literary burn book features Virginia Woolf dunking on Thomas Hardy

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

Virginia Woolf.
Archival photo of Virginia Woolf, who considered Hardy both the best and the worst English novelist of her time.
Central Press/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. This week’s links will have to be enough to hold you for a bit, as next week I will be on vacation, lounging on a beach, possibly reading a book for non-work purposes if I feel like getting really wild. In the meantime, here’s the best the web has to offer for the week of March 3, 2019.

While many references to Ibn Sina and his work pop up in old Irish medical texts, this is the only known evidence of a full translation of his encyclopedia. He originally wrote in Arabic, and the Irish rendition is likely translated from a 13th-century Latin version by the prolific Gerard of Cremona. “This is one of the most influential medical books ever written,” says Nic Dhonnchadha. “So the fact that it was being studied in Ireland in the 15th century was certainly a link to the Islamic world.”

I like Robert Lynd’s sly reply to “the most underrated English writer living or dead”: “Shakespeare”. Even better is Woolf assigning both best and worst living English novelist to Hardy. Woolf wins a slightly unexpected-charm prize with “I like all dead men of letters” in response to “a deceased man of letters whose character you most dislike”.

It is the dislikes which, perhaps inevitably, deliver most fun. ASM Hutchinson, the successful romantic novelist, comes top of the dislikes table, with Thomas Carlyle and George Meredith just behind. None of these get any balancing praise. “A deceased man of letters whose character you most dislike” is won by Dr Johnson, followed by Oscar Wilde and Meredith, with Proust and Byron getting a vote each. Are flamboyants unpopular with other writers?

Harris, a representative of the SoA [Society of Authors] who speaks passionately on behalf of authors, knows several who have lost contracts because piracy drove down their sales to an unsustainable level. The most vulnerable authors are those who write series: when book one does well, but book two is heavily pirated, book three could end up dead in the water. Midlist authors, and those who barely scrape a living are also at risk. “These people mistakenly think they’re sticking it to the man,” Harris says. “They’re not; they’re sticking it to the little people, the people who are struggling … and they don’t care.”

At several points last weekend, the book was a spot behind Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” on the Top 100.

The book posits that Monsters Inc. shows off a government plan to collect children’s blood “that gives [government figures] some form of high or youthful looks.”

Certain formulas naturally had to be followed to preserve the impression that each series was written by a single author. One of Stratemeyer’s writers, quoted in Billman’s study, explained the stylistic requirements succinctly: “A low death rate but plenty of plot. Verbs of action, and polka-dotted with exclamation points and provocative questions.” Legend has it that Stratemeyer once crossed out a writer’s entire page worth of description and replaced it with a single word: “Boom!”

“Reading fiction is one of the best ways we have of putting ourselves in other people’s shoes. The rise in sales of translated fiction shows how hungry British readers are for terrific writing from other countries,” said Fiammetta Rocco, administrator of the Man Booker International (MBI) prize, which will announce its longlist on 13 March.

Here’s a rundown of the past week in books at Vox:

As always, you can keep up with Vox’s book coverage by visiting Happy reading!

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