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 September 9, 2018.
- At the New York Times, Sarah Lyall celebrates Little Women in its 150th anniversary year:
“Little Women” was that unusual thing, a classic that is also an instant hit. It was wildly popular from the moment it was published, in two parts, starting in 1868. (The second part, in which the loose ends left by the March sisters’ unmarried states are neatly tied up, was written in response to the success of the first. It came out the following year and has proved dismaying to readers who prefer Jo’s unmarried independence.)
The book was also revolutionary, in its way.
- Also at the Times, Julia Jacobs looks into how we can use YA novels to make sense of the questions brought up by #MeToo:
Laurie Halse Anderson, the author of “Speak,” a 1999 novel about a teenage girl traumatized by rape, did not initially see her book as a piece of activism.
After it was published, Ms. Anderson visited schools to discuss the story and its main character, Melinda, a freshman who struggles to verbalize her pain after she is raped by an upperclassman at her first high school party.
Early on, Ms. Anderson spoke about the book as a piece of literature rather than a lesson on rape culture. But then the students started asking questions, like, “Did this happen to you?”
- At Book Riot, used bookseller Margaret Kingsbury walks us through the books that everybody’s trying to sell back:
We actually had to put a blanket ban on buying in this one because nobody’s reading it anymore and we couldn’t even sell copies for 5¢.
- At the Guardian, Terena Bell looks into the question of why book titles change when they move from the UK to the US:
Hitler’s Scapegoat by Stephen Koch will be released by Counterpoint Press in the US next year as Hitler’s Pawn. I asked their publicity manager why, but she wasn’t sure and said the editor didn’t know either. Ask the Brits, she suggested.
- At Longreads, Jordan Michael Smith visits what’s left of Tolstoy Farms, a community that was supposed to be built on Tolstoy’s social principles:
Nearing the end of his life in the first decades of the 20th century, as many as 35 people a day visited Tolstoy, seeing him both as an object of veneration and one of fascination. As a British journalist wrote, he was “a man of genius who spends his time in planting potatoes and cobbling shoes, a great literary artist who has founded a propaganda of Christian anarchy, an aristocrat who spends his life as a peasant — such a man in any country would command attention. In Russia he monopolizes it.” Tolstoy had gone from being the best-known fictionist on the planet to being someone who not only abandoned writing fiction but was a vegetarian who didn’t smoke, drink, spend time with his family, hunt, eat meat, have sex, or really have any kind of fun at all.
- Target is apparently changing book summaries on its website to weed out language the company finds offensive. Claire Kirch reports on the story at Publishers Weekly:
A number of publishers, most of them university presses, are taking Target Corporation to task for redacting certain key words in the product descriptions of their books. They say the Minneapolis-based chain retailer has scrubbed certain words from their descriptions, including “transgender,” “queer,” and even the term “Nazi.”
- Legends Books, Antiques & Soda Fountain is an actual store that exists inside a mine shaft. Atlas Obscura has pictures.
- And Atlas Obscura continues on the quirky bookstore beat (heroes) with their profile of Saint Rita’s Amazing Traveling Bookstore and Textual Apothecary.
- Me, I would try to work an Anne Perry reference into the article itself, but I can’t deny that this is a perfect headline: “Novelist who wrote about ‘How to Murder Your Husband’ charged with murdering her husband.”
- Lois Lowry, the 81-year-old author of The Giver, is now staging her first play. Matia Burnett reports at Publishers Weekly:
Last fall, Lowry was commissioned to write an original stage production for NYU’s Steinhardt’s New Plays for Young Audiences 2018 play development series. As Lowry told PW, she was visiting northern Spain when she was contacted by Stan Foote, artistic director of the Oregon Children’s Theatre. Foote asked if Lowry might be able to write an original play to be workshopped, which Foote would direct. The only caveat: she’d need to get it to him in just a few days.
- This week, the New Yorker announced the longlist for the National Book Awards, which this year include a new category: translated literature.
- At LitHub, Haruki Murakami offers a primer on Japanese literature:
Having become a Japanese novelist (once and for all), I may have something of a problem on my hands in saying that I know hardly anything about Japanese fiction—which is a little different from Buddy Rich saying he doesn’t listen to country and western music. This is why, after passing the age of 30, I made an effort to read as much Japanese fiction as I could, thanks to which I discovered quite a number of truly interesting works later in life but recall very few from those impressionable teen years I spent in the 1960s.
- Publishers have uncovered a previously unknown memoir by John Steinbeck’s wife; it will perhaps not shock you, given the news cycle of the past year, to learn that according to her, Steinbeck was an emotionally abusive sadist:
When she was experiencing problems during her pregnancy with John Jr, Steinbeck told her that she had “complicated” his life during a busy period of writing. When John Jr arrived prematurely in 1946, she recalls Steinbeck telling her: “I wish to Christ he’d die, he’s taking up too much of your fucking time.” She identifies the conversation as “the moment when love died”.
Meanwhile, here’s a rundown of the week in books at Vox:
- The biggest lie we still teach in American history classes
- In Lake Success, Gary Shteyngart satirizes Wall Street, Trump, and the fantasy of the road trip novel
- How do you choose an outfit for a fictional character? 5 authors explain.
- Bullshit jobs: why they exist and why you might have one
- DeRay Mckesson on Trump-era activism: “We can’t just be fighting the people in seats of power”
As always, you can keep up with Vox’s book coverage by visiting vox.com/books. Happy reading!
Author: Constance Grady