Does a writer make the city or does the city make the writer? At Grantland, Michael Weinreb discusses why Elmore Leonard is the ultimate Motor City writer and discovers Leonard’s Detroit. “Without his books, the city would still have suffered the same hellish decline. But because of him, that suffering was rendered into an art form all its own.” Pair with: Our own Bill Morris writing against Detroit’s ruin porn reputation.
In an article for Vanity Fair, Meredith Turtis argues that “perhaps fiction… can change the place women have in history,” by giving forgotten figures new lives as characters with fascinating stories to tell. She cites Paula McClain‘s just-released Circling the Sun, about a trailblazing female aviator, and Megan Mayhew Bergman‘s Almost Famous Women, which could have been included based on the title alone. Her argument pairs well with our own Hannah Gersen‘s review of Jami Attenberg‘s Saint Mazie, a novel that fictionalizes the life and voice of a very real “Bowery celebrity.”
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.
Andrew O’Hagan, whose books have gotten some Booker Prize notice over the years, has a new one out (it’s been out in the UK for a while now) called The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe, which, as the title perhaps suggests, is told in the voice of Monroe’s Scottish maltese poodle called Maf. Also out this week is Tom Clancy’s first new “Jack Ryan” thriller in quite some time, Dead or Alive.
Slang, as readers of Shakespeare know, affects the development of language as much as any genus of terminology. At Salon, Jonathon Green writes about the strange history of English slang, as part of an excerpt from his new book, The Vulgar Tongue. You could also read our own Michael Bourne on the use of “like” in modern English.