Jessica Love writes for The American Scholar about some recent psychological studies on the art and perspective of storytelling. Of particular interest is the way “the first person does seem to encourage us to identify with the narrator, especially when that narrator is a lot like us.” Not that identifying with narrators is the primary purpose of reading, as the New Yorker reminds us in a piece against “relatability,” but it’s something to consider the next time you pick up a novel and find a character who seems to be just like you.
“There are times it’s happening multiple times a day. Not too long ago, we had two in the same restroom at the same time. We call security, security calls paramedics. Of course they always find somebody lying there.” Samantha Sanders writes for Catapult about the epidemic of opioid overdoses in public libraries, and what some librarians are doing to respond. And ICYMI, here is Corinne Purtill in our own pages about British libraries under austerity cuts.
Sometimes, it’s easier to read or watch something that’s light and airy, as opposed to seeking out art that challenges your perspective. Millions contributor Fiona Maazel generally thinks of herself as a person who instinctively chose nuance over breeziness. But lately, she’s had to ask herself a tough question — is she actually more attracted to the anodyne?
It’s not every day that you come across a defense of literary elitism, but The Guardian’s Nicholas Lezard is tired of explaining that not everyone is a critic. “What I want when I read a book review is to find out what someone cleverer than me and better read than me thinks about whatever’s being reviewed,” he writes.
Zadie Smith could write herself out of a Chinese takeout box, and that’s exactly what she does in her essay on the differences between British and American takeout culture, “Take It Or Leave It,” for The New Yorker. “I don’t think any nation should elevate service to the status of culture.”