Jacob Silverman tackles the niceness epidemic besieging literary criticism at the moment. Where have the hatchet jobs gone? Is social media’s “communalism” robbing critics of their fangs? Each time a publication refuses to print a negative review, the act amounts to “a victory for a publicist, but not for readers,” he writes. (Just a few notes: Silverman’s piece is based on a blog post he wrote recently; Emma Straub has responded on her own blog; and, for what it’s worth, our own Michael Bourne’s recent review of Richard Ford’s Canada was pretty toothy.)
Out this week: New Boy by Tracy Chevalier; Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi; The Awkward Age by Francesca Segal; The Australian by Emma Smith-Stevens; Evensong by Kate Southwood; Behind the Moon by Madison Smartt Bell; and Bad Dreams and Other Stories by Tessa Hadley. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
“It wasn’t our job to be aroused; it was our job to enhance literature meant to arouse our paying readers.” Kayleigh Hughes writes for Catapult about her year of editing e-erotica. You will learn myriad things from her account, such that publishers list “every sex act contained in every book, and the page on which those activities could be found, so that those in sales could properly categorize and organize the books for maximum success in the e-market.” And if your lust still requires further satiation, see also this account of writing the erotica itself.
In the Boston Review, Jess Row wades – slowly, interestingly, not always coherently – into the perpetually roiling waters of Theory of the Novel, taking on the canon wars, realism vs. the avant-garde, etc. Is it really “a safe bet that your average well-informed critic today has never read a single work of criticism by a writer of color?” Probably not, even granting Row’s exception. But possibly worth arguing about. If you like that sort of thing.