“The immigrant who arrives too late in life to adapt to his new country, but too early to survive on nostalgia for the old country, has to create a third, imagined country to live in.” Peter Pomerantsev writes for the London Review of Books about Brighton Beach, Russian immigrants and a “self-made America.” Pair with Matthew Wolfson‘s review of Yelena Akhtiorskaya‘s novel of Brighton Beach and Odessa, Panic in a Suitcase.
In his column in the Chicago Tribune today, Eric Zorn describes a particularly ugly incident that occurred at a library not far from where I live. Somebody set fire to a number of books at the John Merlo branch of the Chicago Public Library. Making matters worse, it appears as though the arsonist targeted the gay and lesbian books section of the library, which itself is located in a neighborhood with a large gay population. From Zorn’s column: Staffers detected the fire quickly and used an extinguisher to put it out before anyone was hurt. The library remained open, and if you visit there today, the only reminders of the incident are gaps on several shelves where destroyed books used to sit.But the location makes it a bigger event. For both symbolic and safety reasons, the idea of arson in the stacks, no matter how relatively unsuccessful, is chilling. Public libraries are not only embodiments of liberty but, with all that paper, prospective tinderboxes.More chilling still to many is that the unknown arsonist chose to set the fire in the heart of the Chicago area’s largest unified collection of gay and lesbian-oriented books.Zorn explores the topic further at his blog explaining why he decided to devote his column to what was, admittedly, a very minor fire, wondering “Do we not, in some ways, magnify the power of a hate crime when we publicize it?”I’m glad he decided to write the column. Coming on the heels of a book-banning attempt in a nearby school district, it’s been a rough couple of months for books in the Chicago area.Update: It turns out it wasn’t a hate crime. As Eric Zorn explains, they caught the culprit, a 21-year-old homeless woman who set the fire because “she was angry at library staff for being rude to her.”
Recommended Reading: “I HAVE BEEN TRAPPED IN THIS CAMPUS LIFE MAGAZINE FOR FIVE YEARS.”
In 2003, Mary Roach kicked off her book-publishing career with Stiff, a look into the lifespans (pun intended) of cadavers and the ethics of using them for study. At Lapham’s Quarterly, you’ll find the 2001 magazine article that Roach later expanded into Stiff. (Related: we interviewed Roach back in April.)
It’s hard to write when the internet beckons. So has said Dani Shapiro and our own Emily St. John Mandel. Colson Whitehead doesn’t necessarily agree, however. Ditto for our own Kevin Hartnett. Now the folks at Electric Literature have thrown in their two cents.