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 April 14, 2019.
- At Electric Lit, Theodore McCombs sits down with Her Body and Other Parties author Carmen Maria Machado for a perfectly normal interview where everything is fine, in which they discuss Machado’s introduction to a new edition of the Victorian vampire novel Carmilla:
TM: You chose not to publish Veronika’s original letters alongside LeFanu’s novella; you explain in your introduction, “I wish the reader to come to the text with a complete understanding of its inadequacy.” How do paratexts like an introduction, or LeFanu’s prologue for that matter, function to broaden or narrow the main text?
CMM: They create space where there was none, like a tick burrowing into skin. They create space where there was none, like a tick burrowing into skin.
TM: Did you bring Veronika Hausle’s letters with you? Are they downstairs in your room? Are they in your suitcase, for example? Are they in the front flap of your red, rolling suitcase, for example?
CMM: I have not seen the original letters with my own eyes. How do you know the color of my suitcase?
- Speaking of things that are Victorian and vaguely macabre: A recent episode of Antiques Roadshow featured a woman who found a ring apparently filled with Charlotte Brontë’s hair. Cool?
- You may have heard the Mueller report came out this week. We wrote at Vox about the publishers that are formatting it into a book to be released within days, but Publishers Weekly reports bookstores are using the report’s release as an opportunity to show off their print-on-demand capabilities:
To date, Shakespeare & Co.’s machine has largely been put to use printing self-published works for authors, and [bookseller Rob] DeNyse said readers have often been unaware that it can also print millions of classics and out-of-print works.
The Mueller Report offers an opportunity to showcase the capabilities of the machine. “In that conversation [with customers] we can explain that this is the norm and not the exception,” said DeNyse. “With millions of titles we can give you something in minutes.”
- At the Guardian, Sarah Ditum examines why it is that, even in these days of genre boundaries being trendily blurred, some literary authors are so reluctant to admit they’ve written science fiction:
For many authors, genre is something their marketing team might worry about but not something they will sweat over themselves. Perennial SF refuseniks such as Margaret Atwood have softened. In 2003, she claimed that her near-future novel of gene manipulation and climate change Oryx and Crake was speculative fiction because it didn’t include “monsters and spaceships”; recently, she has begun to refer to The Handmaid’s Tale as science fiction. In this context, McEwan looks like something of a stubborn holdout — but there is evidence that, even as the silos start to collapse, readers remain highly attuned to genre conventions, and that writers can be punished for breaching them.
- There’s a cache of unpublished Franz Kafka papers that have, aptly, been held up in a series of labyrinthine court cases. A few boxes from the cache will now be shipped to the National Library of Israel.
- At Refinery29, Kathryn Lindsay examines how the books of Sally Rooney have become Instagram’s newest status symbol. At first I was skeptical about the claim that Normal People has an exceptionally Instagrammable cover, but then I pictured its blue and green silhouettes next to a matcha latte, and you know what? I see it:
Unabridged Bookstore in Chicago says they received several preorders for the book and have sold 13 copies already, which is “pretty extraordinary for a brand new release,” the seller on the phone told me. BookPeople in Austin is also seeing increased interest, telling Refinery29 that of their 20 copies, six have been preordered or put on hold — which, for independent bookstores in 2019, is unfortunately still impressive.
At the same time, Books Are Magic says Rooney’s first novel “has been No. 1 [on] our best seller [list] this week, and it’s been on the list consistently the last couple months.” As those who were already fans of Rooney’s clamor for the first copies of Normal People, the rest of the public is catching up on Conversations With Friends with equal gusto.
Last week, Emily Ratajkowski Instagrammed and tweeted about Conversations With Friends, saying it was Lena Dunham who introduced her to the novel.
”Read this in one sitting,” she wrote on Instagram. “Go get!”
- The Hunchback of Notre-Dame has shot to the top of French best-seller lists in the wake of Monday’s Notre Dame fire, reports the Guardian.
- I’ve told you before about Persephone Books, a.k.a. my favorite indie publisher. It’s British, specializing in forgotten books by women from the early- to mid-20th century, and it packages all its books in dove-gray covers with gorgeous graphic endpapers. It just turned 20! At the New York Times, Sarah Lyall checks in on how it’s doing:
What makes a Persephone book?
“I’m pretty allergic to the egocentric idea that it’s all down to my taste, but I have to confess that I have always had this huge interest in early-20th-century fiction by women — what academics would call middlebrow, and I would call a good read,” Beauman said.
“The connection between them is that they were forgotten and they’re very well-written,” she continued. “I’m very keen on story and on page-turners. When I get to the end of a book I like to put it down and feel absolutely wrenched by what I’ve read, to be in a different world.”
- At the Paris Review Daily, Ana Luísa Amaral discusses the problem of translating Emily Dickinson into Portuguese:
Dickinson’s language is deviant not only in syntax and form but also in its semantics. The main problem when translating Dickinson is not just its hymnlike form but the actual way the poems are constructed and the sometimes impossible task of bringing to the surface what lies beneath. Regarded as extreme in her own time, Dickinson remains extreme in ours, because of the opaqueness of her poems—and their complex subject matter.
Here’s a rundown of the past week in books at Vox:
- Sally Rooney’s Normal People will be tough to beat as book of the year
- Why Notre Dame matters, in one Victor Hugo passage
- Bret Easton Ellis’s White tries hard to be provocative. It’s just boring.
- Publishers are racing to turn the Mueller report into a book
As always, you can keep up with Vox’s book coverage by visiting vox.com/books. Happy reading!