“Literary interviews became popular in the eighteen-eighties, but Richard Altick, the late professor of Victorian literature at Ohio State University, traces the public fascination with writers’ homes at least as far back as the eighteen-forties, when there was a vogue for books describing the houses and landscapes of famous authors, complete with engravings and, later, photographs.” On the strangeness of literary celebrity.
From The Things They Carried to Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, veteran literary fiction has always been popular, yet women are almost nowhere to be found in war literature. At The New York Times, Cara Hoffman argues that leaving women out of combat literature makes returning from war even more isolating. “They would be made visible if we could read stories that would allow us to understand that women kill in combat and lose friends and long to see their children and partners at home.”
Colm Tóibín’s new book on Elizabeth Bishop is unusually hard to categorize. Part “primer,” part “personal reflection,” in Jonathan Farmer’s words, it moves back and forth between analysis and lyricism, alternating passages of beauty with nuts-and-bolts guides to Bishop’s poems. In Slate, Farmer tries to nail it down. You could also read our own Michael Bourne’s review of Tóibín’s The Master.
Even though Harper Lee hasn’t given an interview in 50 years, her letters are an insight into the notoriously reclusive writer.”I simply don’t give interviews, because it takes great skill to ask meaningful questions and very few people in the media have it,” she wrote in a 2005 letter. Two of Lee’s letters will be auctioned today and are expected to go for at least $2,500 a piece. Pair with: Our essay on reclusive authors.
Three thousand Russians volunteered to proofread “forty-six thousand eight hundred pages” of Leo Tolstoy’s writings over the course of fourteen days. Soon their efforts will be available online for all to see. Meanwhile, Buzzfeed is catching some heat for enlisting the services of unpaid Duolingo students in order to translate site content for Spanish, French, and Brazilian Portuguese readers.
“[I]n the days following the election, one thing became clear: many librarians are anxious about the future.” From Carla Hayden to copyright reform, Publisher’s Weekly has the top 10 library stories of 2016. Also recommended: a piece by Daniel Penev from our own pages earlier this year, about how libraries matter now more than ever.
When I was a kid, I read the whole Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and never thought about it being “for girls.” At Slate, Emily Bazelon writes about why it’s wrong that “the conventional educational wisdom holds that boys don’t like to read about girls.”The New York Public Library’s 25 Books to Remember from 2005 (via Conversational Reading)It’s Perfectly Normal, a sex education book by Robie H. Harris tops the American Library Association’s list of 10 Most Challenged Books of 2005. Also on the list: The Catcher in the Rye and the Captain Underpants series.The Ten Worst Autobiographies as listed by The Independent. Not sure where else you’d find Hillary Clinton, James Frey and Hitler on the same list. (via Books Inq.)A New Orleans resident auctions off a bunch of “first-edition books, handwritten manuscripts and letters by Beat Generation writers” to raise money for Jon and Gypsy Lou Webb who published some of Charles Bukowski’s earlest works and were left homeless by Hurricane Katrina.
“Pink Trance Notebooks is the mind working, is material rising from somewhere deep to be shaped and reshaped into blocks of dreamlike text. It is also surface: material gathered from within reach.” Sarah Gerard at Hazlitt in an interview with Wayne Koestenbaum, whose new book is out in October.
Hannah Withers and Lauren Ross have written about today’s state of publishing for McSweeney’s. Their conclusion? Young people read more than you. According to Laura Goode, though, moms are reading more YA novels than their kids. Either way, everyone can start reading in the bathtub thanks to waterproof paperbacks.