“Yes, it’s easy to laugh at the lawyers. But what if the lawyers were right? For the question that still needs to be answered, I think, is whether the arguments over the novel’s obscenity and obscurity were just temporary historical effects or whether they point to the essence of Joyce’s originality.” A longform look at why we should still find Ulysses scandalous.
The first reviews of Zadie Smith‘s new collection of essays, Changing My Mind, are in and the general line’s a non-committal, guarded praise. I think it’s wunderkind jealousy, myself. Voici: The L.A Times review and The San Francisco Chronicle review.
“That’s why I’m organizing this fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, because for me the right to say what happens to my body is the right to make art.” Year-in-Reading alum Claire Vaye Watkins has launched “Dabbler’s Ball,” an art auction featuring work by some other boldtype names you might know (Ramona Ausubel, Lauren Groff, Tom McGuane, Emma Straub). Bidding runs until September 5th and 100% of the proceeds will go toward the venerable PP. See also: our reviews of Vaye Watkins’s novel Gold Fame Citrus and Battleborn, her first story collection.
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.
What’s the one question you should never ask a writer starting a new book: how’s the writing going? “Nothing can damage a novel in embryo as quickly and effectively as trying to describe it before it’s ready,” Mark Slouka writes. Follow his advice for how to keep your writer friends.