If you haven’t seen Knopf art director Chip Kidd’s humorous TED Talk yet, you should really get right on that. He makes a good “visual first impression,” discusses the role of a book designer, the smell of an iPad, and does it all while wearing a “skanky mic.”
“On closer inspection, however, the book comes off as something more complicated than a flowering of one eccentric and filthy man’s erotic imagination. Its elaborate descriptions of pleasure given and taken start to seem like scrims for a moral argument about what sorts of sexual behaviors should be ‘forbid’ and which should be encouraged—an argument refined in prison by an author deeply occupied with thoughts of punishment, dissipation, and sin.” On John Cleland’s (very erotic) novel Fanny Hill and the importance of its having been written in prison.
“The label ‘Immigrant Fiction’ derives from the same problematic Pantheon in which ‘Women’s Literature,’ ‘Black Literature,’ and more, exist. Unlike the genre of, say, science fiction, which describes the content and style of the writing, categories like ‘immigrant’ or ‘Black’ fiction seem to be concerned more with the author’s identity and/or perceived audience.” On literary categories and immigrant fiction, over at Guernica.
“As I got older, the Nigerian scam artist turned into a meme. The ‘Nigerian prince’ became a joke tossed around by white people with the same ease that ‘Italian mobster’ jokes were likely tossed around in the ‘70s—but aided now by the internet. Whenever I came across casual references to my people as scam artists, I’d wince. There was more to us than the scam. Hell—there was even more to the scam.” On how novelist Teju Cole helped Ijeoma Oluo make peace with the Nigerian scam artist.
The final PEN Literary Award Longlists are posted today! Check out all of the lists here. Longlisters include Angela Flournoy (whom we interviewed, and who has written a Year in Reading for us), Marilynne Robinson (who is known for her singular vision), Renata Adler (about whom we have made six possibly true observations), and David L. Ulin (whose Year in Reading is here).
Recommended (Heavy) Reading: A mind-bending interview with Kathinka Evers at 3:AM Magazine on the increasingly important field of “neuroethics.” Neuroethics is, in essence, “the study of the questions that arise when scientific findings about the brain are carried into philosophical analyses, medical practice, legal interpretations, health and social policy.” Welcome to the 21st century.