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 21, 2019.
- This Guardian article comes with the headline “The Clockwork Condition: lost sequel to A Clockwork Orange discovered,” but the word “sequel” doesn’t seem totally accurate to me. Per the rest of the article, The Clockwork Condition is nonfiction:
Part philosophical reflection and part autobiography, The Clockwork Condition provides a context for Burgess’s most famous work, and amplifies his views on crime, punishment and the possible corrupting effects of visual culture. It also casts fresh light on Burgess’s complicated relationship with his own Clockwork Orange novel, a work that he went on revisiting until the end of his life.
- Nora Roberts is a best-selling romance novelist, but she also has a law degree. So she probably wasn’t the best choice of authors for this indie novelist to allegedly plagiarize:
Ms. Roberts said the material lifted from her books was often word for word.
For example, a passage in “The Liar,” published in 2015, reads: “She was beautiful. A man didn’t get to be just shy of his thirtieth birthday without seeing some beautiful women, even if it was just on a movie screen. But this one, in the flesh, was one quick wow.”
A passage in “Royal Affair” by Ms. Serruya, published in 2018, reads: “She was beautiful. A man didn’t get to be just shy of his thirty-seventh birthday without seeing some beautiful women, even if it was just on a movie screen. But that was not the case with Ludwig, who’d had more than his share of extraordinarily beautiful women. But this woman, in the flesh, was superlative.”
- This year is the 30th anniversary of Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club. At LitHub, Tan looks back at the experience of publishing it:
[My mother] once told me that my widowed grandmother became the first wife to a rich man. In my story, I made the woman a fourth wife, a lowly concubine. I detailed the reason she joined the household and how she taught her daughter to not succumb to the bad fate someone else gives you. “I didn’t tell you these things,” my mother said, “So how did you know what really happened. Is she here?” she asked. “You can tell me. Don’t be shy.”
- At Slate, book critic Laura Miller reviews the Mueller Report:
Is it frivolous to evaluate the Mueller report’s entertainment value? Isn’t the legitimacy of the Trump administration enabling the cruelest abuses at the nation’s borders and threatening our democratic institutions? It is, but I’d argue that it makes sense to examine everything pertaining to the Trump administration in this light because Trump doesn’t operate under an ethos of governance, or even under an ethos of business. The only thing he is good at is entertainment; it’s what got him elected and has allowed him to commandeer the news cycle for four years.
- Prince was working on a memoir when he died; this fall, it will be posthumously published. The AP has the report:
The book will span from Prince’s childhood to his early years as a musician to the cusp of international stardom, using Prince’s own writings, a scrapbook of his personal photos, and the original handwritten lyric sheets for many of his most iconic songs, which he kept at Paisley Park. The book depicts Prince’s evolution through deeply revealing, never-before-shared images and memories and culminates with his original handwritten treatment for his masterwork, “Purple Rain.”
- The Met is now featuring an exhibit of artwork inspired by The Tale of Genji, the Japanese book written around 1019 that was the world’s first novel. At the New Yorker, Louis Menand explains why Genji matters:
The real Orientalism is how long it took for Western critics to register that “The Tale of Genji” disrupts every cliché about the “rise of the novel” that they were taught in school. For decades, the history of the novel meant the history of the European novel, which started in the eighteenth century. The novel was supposed to be a reflection of modern life. It told a story about everyday life and was written in everyday language. It put individual psychology and social interplay at the center of narrative. These attributes were said to reflect the emergence of a world that was increasingly mobile, secular, and democratic.
“The Tale of Genji” is a huge embarrassment to this historiography, because it has every one of those attributes (though the “everyday life” is everyday life in a court), and it was written in a feudal, religious, and rigidly stratified society, radically dissimilar to the England of Daniel Defoe.
- At the Paris Review Daily, Frankie Thomas considers the creepy authoritarianism of Madeleine L’Engle:
Rereading the Austin books now, I’m struck by how often Vicky’s praise comes at the expense of another child, a lesser child. It’s not enough that, in Troubling a Star, Vicky’s poem wins second prize in a school contest; Aunt Serena must also point out that Vicky’s poem “was much better than the one that won first prize.” Vicky’s younger sister, Suzy, who is “thirteen, going on thirty,” is allegedly beautiful and smart and popular with boys, but she mostly functions as a straw man for the older characters to compare unfavorably to Vicky. “Suzy’s got plenty going for her, you’re right,” a sophisticated college boy concedes in A Ring of Endless Light (in which, to reiterate, Suzy is thirteen), “but it’s all out there, on the surface. I prefer to dig for gold.” Throughout the series, as far as I can tell, Vicky has no friends her own age.
How I longed to be adored like Vicky Austin! More than anything, I wanted Madeleine L’Engle to love me the way she loved Vicky—that is to say, the most.
- At the New Republic, Maggie Doherty considers the Iowa Writers’ Workshop’s long history of sexism:
The male writers, for their part, saw these liaisons as rejuvenating encounters or simply as just reward. In a letter, Vonnegut described how “women have the power to renew the ambition and wit of men adrift, and have done that twice for me…. Both times, after sleeping with these angels, I started writing and making pictures again.” In the same note, he pointed out that “Bellow and Mailer have renewed themselves in this fashion again and again, as though buying new cars.” (It is difficult to imagine how one might competently teach students whom one compares to consumer goods.) Rumor had it that female applicants were admitted on the basis of their photographs. A female student who attended the Workshop during the ’70s described women at the Workshop as “unnecessary: decorative, not functional.”
Here’s a rundown of the past week in books at Vox:
- The most prescient science fiction author you aren’t reading
- The myth of rational thinking
- Bookstores band together for Independent Bookstore Day
- The robot is the most human character in Ian McEwan’s so-so new novel
- Why conspiracy theories are getting more absurd and harder to refute
As always, you can keep up with Vox’s book coverage by visiting vox.com/books. Happy reading!