“You should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children,” Ruth Graham wrote in Slate last week, stirring the proverbial pot of new adult fans of Young Adult bestsellers like The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park. A host of YA-defenders rose up to shout her down. “You should never be embarrassed by any book you enjoy,” Hillary Kelly responds in The New Republic, unrealistically (we’re embarrassed by quite a lot). For the Washington Post, Alyssa Rosenberg cites examples of worthwhile, complex YA fiction we can certainly support: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Pushcart War, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Westing Game.
To add to the awards lists, Believer has announced its editors’ shortlist for the Believer Book Award, which looks to acknowledge “the strongest and most underappreciated” novels of the year. The shortlist includes Danielle Dutton’s Sprawl; Kira Henehan’s Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles (reviewed for The Millions); James Hynes‘ Next, Grace Krilanovich’s The Orange Eats Creeps (reviewed for The Millions); and Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies (reviewed here).
Have novels about love lost their gravitas as women’s liberation and divorce culture have taken over? Adelle Waldman doesn’t think so. In The New Yorker, she defends the timelessness of the marriage plot. “As long as marriage and love and relationships have high stakes for us emotionally, they have the potential to offer rich subject material for novelists, no matter how flimsy or comparatively uninteresting contemporary relationships seem on their surface.” Pair with: Our Jeffrey Eugenides essay on writing The Marriage Plot, which is referenced several times in Waldman’s essay.
“It was only in 1987, when she went to National Taiwan University, that the censorship laws were relaxed. Yet the censorship laws seemed to have an opposing effect on her literary ambitions. ” Meet Qiu Miaojin, the first woman in Chinese literature to come out as openly gay. Ankita Chakraborty at Longreads has more on this remarkable writer.
“It’s possible that when it comes to books, we have overestimated the means of delivery and have underestimated the importance of the content conveyed in the media.” A recent study demonstrated that preschoolers demonstrated the same level of reading comprehension regardless of whether the story they were, ahem, consuming came in digital or analog form, reports MOBY Lives. For more on the print vs. screen debate, see Alix Christie on the persistence of physical books; and of course it would be criminal not to mention our own founder C. Max Magee‘s killer compilation The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books.
Literary fame is a knotty thing. It’s hard to predict exactly who will be known for centuries, and why. William Wordsworth, for example, owes at least part of his fame to the Lake District, which started to use him in their tourist campaigns not long after his death. In The New Yorker, Joshua Rothman takes a look at H.J. Jackson’s Those Who Write for Immortality. Related: Gina Fattore’s recent essay on fame and money.