The New York Review of Books posts a vintage essay by Joan Didion on the films of Woody Allen: “This notion of oneself as a kind of continuing career—something to work at, work on, ‘make an effort’ for and subject to an hour a day of emotional Nautilus training, all in the interests not of attaining grace but of improving one’s ‘relationships’—is fairly recent in the world, at least in the world not inhabited entirely by adolescents. In fact the paradigm for the action in these recent Woody Allen movies is high school.”
As a young girl in the 1980s, Melissa Carroll played with My Little Pony dolls, in part because, as she puts it, “I knew I’d better have one.” Nearly thirty years on, she’s fascinated by the new surge of interest in the dolls, especially the interest displayed by the men who call themselves Bronies. At The Rumpus, her Sunday essay on the rise of the Brony and gender dynamics in America.
For Perry Link, it was embarrassing to read Eileen Chang for the first time, because her work revealed things about China it took him too long to learn on his own. In The New York Review of Books, he writes about how Naked Earth, which the magazine’s publishing arm is republishing in June, cut through the jargon of Chairman Mao’s regime. FYI, Jamie Fisher wrote an essay on the book for The Millions.
In spite of the title of her blog post, Lily Meyer doesn’t think Ann Patchett is really an enemy of Zadie Smith. Instead, she thinks the two authors play opposing roles in her life, thanks largely to the different effects their books have on her perceptions. At the Ploughshares blog, she contrasts their novels, using excerpts from White Teeth and Bel Canto. Related: Kevin Charles Redmon’s review of Patchett’s novel State of Wonder.
“If you ask around, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a really bad novel easily enough. I mean a novel by someone who has spent isolated years writing a book they are convinced is a great work of literature. And when you’re reading it you’ll know it’s bad, and you’ll know what bad truly is.” What makes bad writing so bad? Toby Litt at The Guardian investigates.
“Will anyone in America give a damn about Beig? It’s hard to imagine our glittering zeitgest machine ever getting behind her, with her landscape, her women, her knowledge of the secret lives of animals born for the hatchet. Her writing, so invested in the disappearing rural world, is particular, yes, but universal: her characters love and long and pine away.” Matthew Neill Null is unsatisfied with how American readers have treated the work of the great German novelist Maria Beig. He makes a passionate case in her favor in this new essay over at The Paris Review.