The copy of Shakespeare’s works disguised as a Hindu religious text and read by imprisoned Nelson Mandela will go on display for this first time later this summer.
Cairo bookstore Bab Aldonia has installed a soundproof room for its customers in which, MobyLives reports, “anyone can go and scream in privacy for ten minutes at a time.” An unsigned piece on the online magazine Cairoscene notes that working out one’s frustrations within the safety of its walls “may prove just as effective as regime change.” The stakes are considerably lower, but if you’re a fan of indie booksellers, you’ll also enjoy our piece about bookstores we have known, loved, and worked for.
Paula Fox, celebrated novelist and winner of the 1983 National Book Award (among other honors), died this week. Contributing to our Year in Reading series two years ago, Parul Sehgal said she couldn’t stop rereading Desperate Characters, perhaps Fox’s most popular book for adults. “It’s really a wallop of a book,” Sehgal wrote. “A barbed portrait of a marriage, not to mention a brilliant take on gentrification, white fears of black and brown people, the hostile insularity of the nuclear family, and how power reproduces and how power conceals itself.” (Bonus: Dominic Smith wants to send a scene from that novel into space.)
Are we now living in a golden age of the uncanny? The Millions contributor Porochista Khakpour suspects that we are, and she also suspects that our historical moment, populated as it is with alienating developments and surreal art, is key to understanding the work of Helen Oyeyemi. In the Times, Khakpour reviews Oyeyemi’s new novel. (You could also read both writers’ Year in Reading pieces.)
In writing her novel The Last Neanderthal, which published this week, Millions staffer Claire Cameron relied on Jane Smiley’s motto for writing historical fiction: “you are there.” Bonus: Don’t miss our interview with Cameron, in which she describes her many “life-long obsessions.”
Joshua Rothman writes for The New Yorker about Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, privacy and “a gift that you’ve been given, which you must hold onto and treasure but never open.”
This year marks the second anniversary of Asymptote, an international journal focusing on literature in translation. The staff is commemorating the occasion by hosting a series of events in eight different locales around the globe: Beijing, Barcelona, Berlin, Islamabad, Chicago, Taipei, Singapore and New York City. Folks attending The Big Apple’s event on January 20th will get to see Millions contributor Reif Larsen live in action alongside Cole Swensen, Paul Legault, Adam Sorkin, and Ariana Reines.