“When danger or pain press too nearly, they are incapable of giving any delight, and are simply terrible; but at certain distances and with certain modifications, they may be, and they are delightful, as we every day experience. The cause of this I shall endeavour to investigate further.” David Shields quotes Edmund Burke in an interview about his new book War Is Beautiful.
“The problem is that young children have terrible taste and enjoy garbage. Another problem, which compounds the first problem, is that they want to hear the same books hundreds of times in a row. So for all the joys that storytime can offer, it frequently entails a kind of dismal self-abnegation that’s too excruciating even to describe as tedium—an actively painful sense of my precious time on earth being torn from my chest and tossed into a furnace.” Gabriel Roth writes about the terrible Poky Little Puppy for Slate, and his complaints pair well with Jacob Lambert‘s Millions series, “Are Picture Books Leading Our Children Astray?” and “Again, I Ask…“
A lot of people were outraged by initial reports of Amazon’s price-check promotion, and a lot of that had to do with misinformation. Thankfully, Richard Russo sets the record straight about at least one point of contention. (The discount doesn’t apply to books.)
Leave it to Roxane Gay to come up with a novel format for an essay on the feminist novel. In the new issue of Dissent, she presents eleven theses on the topic, including references to Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, and Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Sample quote: “Not every novel that concerns itself with the lives of women is a feminist novel. Fifty Shades of Grey is not a feminist novel.” You could also read our own Edan Lepucki on the problem with feminist anthems.
If you don’t have any weekend plans, we suggest you spend your time on the British Library’s new Victorian and Romantic section of Discovering Literature. The site features 1,200 literary treasures, including a manuscript of Jane Eyre and 20 short documentaries.
The second issue of the new journal Music & Literature is a feast for Krasznahorkai enthusiasts and neophytes alike, with some 70 pages of previously untranslated fiction, interviews, and essays, along with critical context on the “Hungarian Master of the Apocalypse.” Alas, only George Szirtes‘ essay and an interview with translator Ottilie Mulzet are available digitally. But the complete analog package is highly recommended.
Koa Beck’s father gave her a copy of Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying when she was 15 years old. Depending on your persuasion, this was either a brilliant idea or an awful parental blunder. Regardless, Beck says the book (aided by The Bell Jar and Diary of a Mad Housewife) helped her understand that “the game was rigged, that everyone was lying, [and] that there was so much more to being a woman than what society said there was.”