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Thousands of titles from 1924 just entered the public domain, including Rhapsody in Blue

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

George Gershwin, the composer of Rhapsody in Blue, works on a score at the piano in his 72nd Street apartment, New York, New York, 1934.
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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 December 29, 2019.

Although his name may not be familiar, Mehta, who died Dec. 30 at 77, was not merely an individual reader in a single vacuum. As an editor and publisher, he was probably responsible for one of your favorite books. Through Mehta’s dual convictions that there was a real market among readers for literature and that there was genuine value in popular fiction, he indelibly shaped U.S. and world culture.

They used to warn you, before you first met Sonny Mehta, not to be intimidated by the silence. Don’t let it throw you off, my agent told me, he just doesn’t say much.

Truth is, he didn’t have to. The best writing advice I’ve ever received came delivered from him in single sentences — simple yet deeply nuanced advice I would think about for months, each time arriving at the realization that what he suggested was exactly what the work needed. His gift, I think, was to read every manuscript twice at the same time — once for exactly what it was and once for everything it could be.

  • And at Publishers Weekly, Rachel Deahl looks at what comes next for Knopf in the wake of Mehta’s death:

While [Penguin Random House] may indeed have no intention of breaking up Knopf Doubleday, the question about who will succeed Mehta is swirling. Mehta’s old job is one of the most high-profile and sought after positions in the industry. To varying degrees, there is no other imprint as glamorous as Knopf—because of the breadth of books it publishes, the success it’s had and the respect (both literary and commercially) it invokes. For this reason, the question of who will be to fill the very large shoes Mehta has left is on the minds of the industry at large.

Let’s talk about the power of romance. There’s power in the written word, even in a genre that we tend to consider — because of sexism — less intellectual than some others. And it isn’t just about hearts and flowers and candy; this is cold hard cash: Romance as a literary genre represents a quarter of all fiction sales and more than half of all paperback sales, and it brings in over a billion dollars in sales annually.

The impact of romance books on the culture is outsize because everyone is interested in romance, whether they admit it publicly or not.

So long as Vivienne was alive I was able to deceive myself. To face the truth fully, about my feelings towards Emily Hale, after Vivienne’s death, was a shock from which I recovered only slowly. But I came to see that my love for Emily was the love of a ghost for a ghost, and that the letters I had been writing to her were the letters of an hallucinated man, a man vainly trying to pretend to himself that he was the same man that he had been in 1914.

Robert “Just a Friend” Graves

Fights you, but as a friend. If you go down, he’ll go down too out of solidarity. Searching for that wet bond of blood. Believes your lives are now entwined. Do you want to get a drink after this haha just kidding unless. When he says your fat lip is hot he’s actually saying you’re hot. Hitting you but also hitting on you.

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

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