Nowadays, Huck Finn is as a lightning rod for racial issues, which explains why so many schools have banned the book over the years. But in the late 18th century, when Mark Twain published it, the novel was more controversial as a critique of childhood in America. In the Times, Year in Reading alum Parul Sehgal reads Huck Finn’s America, a new book by Andrew Levy that sheds light on the context of the era. You could also read our founder C. Max Magee on reading Huck Finn as a child.
“The myth of the full-time writer is a perniciously sticky one—and it doesn’t help that once in a blue moon a J.K. Rowling does come along, thereby entrenching the cultural delusion that being a full-time writer is a thing that could realistically happen. But the truth is that being a full-time writer is basically just the literary equivalent of a career in the NBA.” Liz Entman Harper talks with seven writers about the struggle to balance writing with a day job, and those interviews pair well with our own Emily St. John Mandel‘s look at “Working the Double Shift.”
Recommended reading: Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams (which we covered here and here), writes again, this time about 52 Blue, “the loneliest whale in the world.” The full work is available at Atavist for $3.99, but an excerpt is available at Slate.
Shall I compare thee to a wormhole? No, this essay on astrophysics and poetry coupled with a poem for Stephen Hawking is most definitely more lovely. Kalpana Narayanan wrote an essay for The Millions on physics, grief, and Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies that may pique your interest.
Everyone’s been there: the bookstore event at which the reader drones on and on. The Observer shares some reading horror stories (and a few successes). Sarah McNally of NYC’s McNally Jackson bookstore says, “The traditional reading format is broken.”