Recommended Reading: Walter Kirn’s “Confessions of an Ex-Mormon,” which has my vote for the best long form article on American religions since Lawrence Wright’s profile of Paul Haggis and the Church of Scientology.
Michele Bachmann will participate in a live chat with Newsweek today, and will perhaps speak about the issue's controversial cover. To prepare, NPR looks into which books and beliefs have shaped the presidential candidate's views.
Last week, JK Rowling announced that, midway through writing the Harry Potter series, she nearly killed off Ron Weasley "out of spite." Ron isn't the first supporting character to narrowly avoid death in an author's rough draft. The Awl illustrates some of literature's other close calls with death.
Don’t Cry author Mary Gaitskill reviews Gillian Flynn’s wildly successful thriller, Gone Girl, for the pages of Bookforum. What she finds is that the book isn’t really frightening because of its plot per se, but rather because its two main characters “do not resemble actual people so much as grotesquely smiling masks driven by forces of extreme artifice, and it’s exactly that extreme artificial quality that’s frightening to the point of sickening.” For what it’s worth, Edan Lepucki, Michael Bourne, Ed Park, Janet Potter, and Jennifer duBois each named Flynn’s book in their most recent Year in Reading pieces.
Meanwhile, in the commonwealth of Virginia, HB 516 is currently sailing through state legislature. What began as one mother's outraged response to her 17-year-old son's AP English assignment–reading Beloved by Toni Morrison–has morphed into a bill which would require school districts to do three things: flag any "sexually explicit" assigned material, allow parents to review all assigned readings to assess perceived levels of sexual explicitness, and finally, require teachers to provide alternate readings/avenues of study for any students whose parents deem particular content too inappropriate.
“A couple of years ago I attended a British Council discussion about the state of contemporary writing and the creative future in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. When someone brought up the dearth of memoirs in the Nigerian literary landscape, almost everyone in the room laughed ruefully. Someone joked aloud, ‘We can’t write memoirs. We’d have to wait for parents to die. Not just parents – everyone who knows us, even!’ This concern is not limited to nonfiction.” Bim Adewunmi writes for BuzzFeed on African immigrants’ stories.