And the rest of the week’s best writing on books and related subjects.
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 July 29, 2018.
- The New York Times’s Enthusiast column always brings with it the joy of very smart people waxing poetic over their favorite things. This week, Florida author Lauren Groff is enthusiastic about Elizabeth Hardwick:
Of all the books I have reread to comfort myself, I have turned most often to Hardwick’s “Sleepless Nights,” not without a little bitter tang of irony because of its title. The book didn’t dovetail with my heart on the first reading, but the world has changed around me, and now I find myself hungering for its particularity, the steady voice of Elizabeth Hardwick a balm to my aching, vulnerable mind.
- At Electric Lit, Don Lee thinks about the reasons to write when you have no hope of great success:
Being a midlist writer is the most tenuous position in publishing. Believe it or not, it’s not the first book that’s the most difficult to publish. When you’re trying to sell your first book, you have no track record, no sales figures. It’s all promise and hope. Down the road, after three, four, five books, everyone can see — via your downward sales and media trajectories — how short you’ve fallen of your promise, and it becomes harder and harder to get a publisher interested in your next project.
- At LitHub, Julia Boyd walks us through the stories of some of the great 20th-century writers who sympathized with fascism:
Freedom of expression is so fundamental to a writer that it can come as a shock to discover how many celebrated literary figures of the 20th century were drawn to fascism. The very notion that writers of the stature of Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis or Norwegian Nobel Prize-winner, Knut Hamsun, could openly condone a regime that publicly burned books, or tortured and killed people simply for expressing a view, is deeply perplexing. Yet T.S. Eliot is among those who have been charged with fascist leanings, while W.B. Yeats was a supporter of the Irish Blueshirts.
- At the Atlantic, Olga Khazan tries to figure out how to write a book without losing your mind:
Talking to Vanderkam—best-selling author, empress of time—I suddenly felt smart, capable, and not like someone who would open Instagram on her web browser just because she’s too lazy to get her phone out.
“If you’ve written 800-word articles in a day,” Vanderkam assured me, “you’ve already written a book in six months anyway. You just have to do a little, then do a little bit more.”
- At Publishers Weekly, author and editor Leila Sales talks through what authors wish editors knew and what editors wish authors knew. This former editorial assistant would like to circle “follow manuscript formatting instructions” in red ink and draw several stars in the margins next to it.
- The publishing world has been rocked by the story of Danielle Smith, a literary agent who forged false offer letters from publishers to her clients and then advised them not to take the (fake) deal. At Publishers Weekly, Claire Kirch catches up with Smith’s former clients:
When PW spoke with Romo, she disclosed that she had been wary of querying agents since firing Smith, as “they don’t respond anyway,” and that perhaps there simply wasn’t a market for her work. “I doubt I’ll ever be published,” she said.
In a subsequent email, however, she reported that she has since realized that since her work had never been sent to any editors, “I have nothing on which to base that impression.” She has since queried eight agents who had offered Smith’s former clients their sympathies and indicated that they were open to submissions from them—although Romo concedes that she still fears being fooled again.
“It’s scarier to query than it was three years ago,” she wrote. “But I’m determined to rise up and not berate myself for being duped. I have since felt vindicated for having the doubts that I had. I was right on, but had been told by the whole writing world to trust my agent. So I did. But if I don’t trust her—[I can’t] say anything critical or I’ll never get another agent. So I didn’t.”
- At Wired, Angela Watercutter takes on the sneering smugness of that Goodreads update email that tells you all about how many books your more productive friends are reading:
Every few days or weeks, just when I started feeling positive about my biblio advancements, one of these messages would come across the transom: “Updates from…” Upon opening it, I’d find out that someone who I knew had a full-time job and active social life had finished two novels in the time it’d taken me to get through the jacket blurbs on David Sedaris’ latest essay collection. Deflation followed. Not only did I feel uninformed and slow, I felt somehow left out. I like talking about books, and thanks to Goodreads I had a constant reminder of all the great books I hadn’t read and all the conversations I couldn’t yet join. It was pure literary FOMO.
- Here is some eye candy: The Guardian has a photo gallery of the most beautiful libraries in the world.
- Speaking of libraries! The ruins of the oldest public library in Germany have been uncovered. It’s thought to be about 2,000 years old, and would have held about 20,000 scrolls.
- Have you noticed all the flowers on book covers lately? At Vanity Fair, Kenzie Bryant investigates the trend:
You’ll most likely find the jackets wrapped around fiction by women, but rarely are they expressly feminine—gone are the cartoon silhouettes or kicky cocktails. They’re usually pure maximalism, a corrective for the single green plant against a white-walled interior, which took over decor and fashion photography circa 2015, or millennial pink, which took over everything else.
- You may recall the scandal earlier this week involving a congressional candidate and Bigfoot erotica. The LA Times reports that in the wake of this story, Bigfoot erotica is climbing the ranks at Amazon.
Meanwhile, here’s a rundown of the week in books at Vox:
- In R.O. Kwon’s terrific new novel The Incendiaries, a cultist looks for meaning in tragedy
- The biggest lie we still teach in American history classes
- Wuthering Heights is a masterpiece of literary genius that is incredibly unpleasant to read
As always, you can keep up with Vox’s book coverage by visiting vox.com/books. Happy reading!
Author: Constance Grady