Writing for Banned Books Month on the PEN American Center’s blog, our own Lydia Kiesling discusses Judy Blume’s Forever. It’s a book many have “lobbied vigorously to pry … out of the hands of enthralled youth since 1975,” Kiesling writes, which should prove that such lobbyists “weren’t very good readers” in the first place.
I’ve written before about Matthew Jockers‘s claim, as reported and presented by the Paris Review, that there are only about 6 plots in fiction. Now Dan Piepenbring returns to the Review to respond to critics who and attempt to answer the questions “is it really possible to assign every word a reliable emotional valence? And even if the answer is yes, can we really claim that all the plots in the history of literature take so few basic forms?”
In 2013, only 93 of 3,200 children’s books were about black characters, according to a new study. “Children of color remain outside the boundaries of imagination,” Christopher Myers writes about the absence. In a follow-up piece, his father and fellow author Walter Dean Myers examines the paralyzing effect under-representation can have on readers. “Books did not become my enemies. They were more like friends with whom I no longer felt comfortable. I stopped reading,” he writes.
I know, I know – another piece about “the canon.” This one, however, is sure to elicit a response one way or another. A sampling: “There are few (arguably no) female poets writing in Chaucer’s time who rival Chaucer in wit, transgressiveness, texture, or psychological insight. The lack of equal opportunity was a tremendous injustice stemming from oppressive social norms, but we can’t reverse it by willing brilliant female wordsmiths into the past. Same goes for people of color in Wordsworth’s day, or openly queer people in Pope’s, or …”
Over the past fifteen years, Mohsin Hamid has moved from New York, to London, and to Lahore, Pakistan, with stints in Italy and Greece. His new book, which came out yesterday, is a series of essays about his odyssey across the world, chronicling his observations and experiences that led him to move. At Bookforum, a review by Jake Lamar.
“Every sense cleared about three hundred percent and stood up on its hind legs waving its feelers.” Eighty years ago, James Agee got an assignment that entered him into history, though not during his lifetime. Let us now celebrate Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. See also: our essay on famous artist-writer collaborations, like Agee’s with Walker Evans.