With news of this year’s winner fresh off the press, it’s easy to see how the Literary Review’s “Bad Sex Awards” are an annual delight to many readers (as well as an annual horror to several authors). But are they also counter-productive? As one former “winner” of the award asks, is the Bad Sex Award “anything more than a sort of moral outrage dressed up as a quest for high standards in writing?”
Heaven forbid someone ever draws parallels between your writing and that of “Robert Rabelais the Younger.” For his work, published in the nineteenth century, has been described as “the most appallingly bad epic poem to have ever been written in English, comprised of 384 interminable pages of doggerel verse devoid of any literary merit, an opus d’odure that screams stinkburger.” (And that’s one of the more positive evaluations.)
When somebody you’re talking to brings up a writer — say Richard Russo — that you haven’t read, but should have, you probably say you haven’t read them because you “just don’t where to start.” Unfortunately, the folks at Book Riot just published a book, Start Here, that might blow up your excuse.
Over at Words Without Borders, Esther Allen considers how to translate a song. As she puts it, “A song that almost everyone in a given culture at a given moment knows is a unique cultural artifact, a crystallized collective experience, a profound trigger that sets off a complex string of shared emotions.” Pair with Magdalena Edwards’s Millions essay on songs as triggers.
Shakespeare is required reading for the would-be literary scholar, yet with so many articles, books and monographs on the Bard in circulation, it might be time to ask: have English professors finally said all there is to say?
Zoë Heller’s takedown of Salman Rushdie in the NYRB may yet ruffle some feathers, but for now it’s nabbed the top spot on New York Magazine’s approval matrix.