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.)
Monologuist Mike Daisey was once devoted to Apple products. Then, one day, he “started to think, and that’s always a problem for any religion.” He began to question how his favorite products were put together, so he traveled to China with hopes of finding out. What he saw was shocking. If you own an Apple device (which I’m betting you do), you need to listen to this episode of This American Life.
“Everywhere in the language of this collection is the deliberate and sustained glorification of the human. Long after his 11 months in what he calls the Lager (Auschwitz III), as a survivor, Primo Levi understands evil as not only banal but unworthy of our insight – even of our intelligence, for it reveals nothing interesting or compelling about itself.” Toni Morrison on The Complete Works of Primo Levi in The Guardian.
Now is as good a time as there ever will be to go and check out the Art Institute of Chicago. A new exhibit, “Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem,” combines the photography of Parks, who eventually went on to gain a measure of fame in the ’70s as a Hollywood movie director, and the writing of Ralph Ellison, in an attempt to offer a portrait of Harlem in the post-World War II years.
You may have read our review of Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel The Buried Giant. You may also have read our own Mark O’Connell’s review at Slate. For another opinion, you could read James Wood, who writes about Ishiguro’s “prose of provoking equilibrium” in the latest New Yorker.
“I am worried about the implications of throwing the label ‘women’s pain’ around individual experiences of suffering, and I am even more uncomfortable with women who feel free to speak for all women. I worry about making pain a ticket to gain entry into the women’s club. And I worry that the assumption of vulnerability threatens to invigorate just the sexist evils it aims to combat by demanding that men serve as shields against it.” In an essay for the Boston Review, Jessa Crispin shares her concerns about the “wounded women” trend in literature right now, citing Leslie Jamison‘s The Empathy Exams and Roxane Gay‘s Bad Feminist as well the Twitter campaign #yesallwomen as particular examples. Pair with Ryan Teitman‘s Millions review of The Empathy Exams.