At Salon, Kyle Minor listens to an audiobook recording of Joan Didion’s Salvador and finds that it remains “immediately relevant to a new reader whose memory of its context is more the kind of memory that arises from having read books about history than one that arises from having been old enough in 1983 to understand the meaning of phrases such as death squad, or body count, or mechanism of terror.”
New this week is Carlos Fuentes’ vampire tale set in Mexico City, Vlad. Also out are The Collective by Don Lee, Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann, Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer, and Evel Knievel Days by Pauls Toutonghi, who last year introduced us to six Egyptian writers as the world watched the Egyptian revolution.
In his column in the Chicago Tribune today, Eric Zorn describes a particularly ugly incident that occurred at a library not far from where I live. Somebody set fire to a number of books at the John Merlo branch of the Chicago Public Library. Making matters worse, it appears as though the arsonist targeted the gay and lesbian books section of the library, which itself is located in a neighborhood with a large gay population. From Zorn’s column: Staffers detected the fire quickly and used an extinguisher to put it out before anyone was hurt. The library remained open, and if you visit there today, the only reminders of the incident are gaps on several shelves where destroyed books used to sit.But the location makes it a bigger event. For both symbolic and safety reasons, the idea of arson in the stacks, no matter how relatively unsuccessful, is chilling. Public libraries are not only embodiments of liberty but, with all that paper, prospective tinderboxes.More chilling still to many is that the unknown arsonist chose to set the fire in the heart of the Chicago area’s largest unified collection of gay and lesbian-oriented books.Zorn explores the topic further at his blog explaining why he decided to devote his column to what was, admittedly, a very minor fire, wondering “Do we not, in some ways, magnify the power of a hate crime when we publicize it?”I’m glad he decided to write the column. Coming on the heels of a book-banning attempt in a nearby school district, it’s been a rough couple of months for books in the Chicago area.Update: It turns out it wasn’t a hate crime. As Eric Zorn explains, they caught the culprit, a 21-year-old homeless woman who set the fire because “she was angry at library staff for being rude to her.”
Out this week: The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch; The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes; The Hand that Feeds You by A.J. Rich; Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont; Vanishing Games by Roger Hobbs; The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock; Speak by Louisa Hall; The Way Things Were by Aatish Taseer; The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak; Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell; You Don’t Have to Live Like This by Benjamin Markovits; French Concession by Xiao Bai; The Captive Condition by Kevin P. Keating; and the paperback edition of our own Edan Lepucki’s California. For more on these and other new titles, check out our latest book preview.
“Many writers write vexed introspection, or detail-oriented reporting, or counterintuitive cultural commentary, or lifestyle journalism. But so far only Didion has done all four in perfect synthesis, a prose that, at its best, can fire on every cylinder and work on multiple fields of the imagination at once.” In support of the Kickstarter project for the documentary on Joan Didion, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, Nathan Heller looks back over Didion’s writing career, her “imaginatively seductive” nonfiction writing and her carefully constructed confessionalism in a piece for Vogue.