The 113th anniversary of Thomas Wolfe’s birthday was last Thursday, but the author lives on in America’s cultural memory thanks to the title of his 1940 novel, You Can’t Go Home Again. Unfortunately, the titular phrase seems to be taken at face value by many people these days, and that can lead to some groan-worthy invocations. A newly-minted Tumblr blog illustrates the point.
Among the books hitting shelves this week are Pulitzer winner and New Yorker staffer Louis Menand’s The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University and memoirist and poet Nick Flynn’s The Ticking is the Bomb. Also new, Melville House is putting out a novella, Union Jack, by Nobel laureate Imre Kertész, and NYRB Classics has published Fortunes of War: The Balkan Trilogy a novel by Olivia Manning based on her time in Eastern Europe during World War II. Rachel Cusk provides an introduction to the edition.
“In publishing, we see this play out in a number of ways. Marginalized writers are told by white editors, we need your stories now more than ever, as if we have not always needed them urgently. We are told our experiences are timely, exotic, and trendy. We are told our stories are not authentic if our characters do not suffer, as if the only way to prove that we are human is to bleed.” Natalia Sylvester on the erasure that comes when marginalized writers are constantly being told by the publishing industry and others that your book about your marginalized identity is ‘timely’.
The Atlantic interviews Erin Gruwell, a teacher whose methods for teaching her students about prejudice became the basis of a book (and subsequent movie) called The Freedom Writers. Named after a group of bus-riding civil rights activists, the students in her classes wrote lengthy journal entries — many of them relating to their own personal traumas — in order to compare them with diaries by historical figures. Writing journals, Gruwell says, helped her students learn to like schoolwork.
“Crossover words are a tremendous testament to our awesome ability to shape the language as we use it. To master our fears. To take our terror and use it to build something terrific.” – Arika Okrent writes for The Week about irony, slang and the way language changes.
You may remember the brouhaha surrounding Bustle, the first website in history to market primarily to women. Now, in this week’s New Yorker, Lizzie Widdicombe profiles the website, which she describes by pointing out that “[its] articles are modest, but the ambitions of its founder, a young Silicon Valley entrepreneur named Bryan Goldberg, are not.”