What happened to the literature of clothing? Writers like Balzac and Proust wrote philosophies of clothing, but nowadays there seems to be a wall between literary writing and fashion. In Public Books, Mary Davis reads Women in Clothes, a collection which reveals a lot about how much our views of fashion writing have changed. FYI, Rachel Signer reviewed the book for The Millions.
Novels that focus on obsessive characters hinge on persnickety details. The need to depict accurately the mind of an obsessive demands that the novelist overemphasize the trifling and tangential. In The Kenyon Review, Vanessa Blakeslee reviews a new and representative example of the form, The Understory by Pamela Erens. Sample quote: “When the smaller steps of daily life are magnified, does that narrative reach its greatest potential for a unified and powerful resonance?” FYI, Erens has written for us.
“What stereotypes will they critique, destroy, or create? What, in other words, will the post-earthquake novel reveal about Haiti’s most recent losses, obstacles, and hopes for the future?” Patti Marxsen on the post-earthquake Haitian novel, over at The Critical Flame.
“I realize that, like most fantasies, reality is likely to be more complicated. For starters, literary communities—like most communities—have echelons. They have cliques; they have ghettos. You are the wrong age, work in the wrong genre, don’t know the right people, don’t teach at the same program … Anyone who thinks this isn’t true is someone squarely at the center of his or her chosen circle.” On peripherality and the uncertain nature of literary community.
As the 20th century wore on, the Strugatsky brothers grew pessimistic about Soviet Communism, eventually turning their fictional worlds from socialist utopias to dystopias. Their most famous early novel, Noon: 22nd Century bears little resemblance to later works like Hard to Be a God, which implicitly criticizes the Soviet government. At The Paris Review Daily, Ezra Glinter charts their evolution.
Millions staff writer Michael Bourne wrote a sobering piece for Canada’s Globe and Mail about the need for stricter gun control in the United States. “I can implore my new neighbours to maintain strict controls on guns,” he writes. “All our children’s lives depend upon it.”
“‘I just want to be normal,’ she said, even though she had amazing powers and a super-family and was mega-gorgeous and better than normal in every way and the entire book would be terrible if she were normal and she had no conception of what normal was to begin with.” At The Toast, Mallory Ortberg lists flaws only a protagonist could have.