New this week is Marilynne Robinson's collection of essays When I Was a Child I Read Books. Also out are Arcadia by Lauren Groff, The Vanishers by Heidi Julavits, and The Reconstructionist by Nick Arvin. Finally, the collected writings of the late and beloved critic John Leonard, Reading for My Life, is now out.
The Ripped Bodice (the only bookstore in the United States dedicated solely to romance books) released a report looking at the state of diversity in 2016 romance novels. Last year there were only 7.8 published romance novels by writers of color for every 100 books from 20 major romance publishing companies. "Of particular concern is the suggestion, as revealed by the study, that publishers are not reflecting their readership base with any kind of parity. According to Pew Research, black women with college degrees are more likely to read a book than any other group. Since romance readers are approximately 84 percent female, this suggests there is a large swath of the population who don’t see themselves represented in authors or protagonists." Entertainment Weekly highlights some major takeaways from the survey, read the rest of the appalling stats and then go support romance writers of color.
"After ten years of painting, that is to say ten years of using an abstract, invented language, writing stories was the closest I had come to working in the realm of 'realism.' It was the most direct I had ever been in my art. Perhaps the most direct I had ever been. But, as I learned from the comments of my peers in workshop ('this isn’t a story,' 'this is poetry,' 'what is this'), my writing was something other than what we referred to as literary realism. By which I mean, the writing many have come to believe most accurately represents life." Susan Steinberg asks what happened to American experimental writing.
Depending on your perspective, this is either the best or the worst pairing of speaker to content there is: Benedict Cumberbatch reading Kafka’s Metamorphosis for the BBC. As always with Cumberbatch, the reading is a nice complement to our own Elizabeth Minkel on Sherlock.