“There’s a deep tendency in our society to view mainstream status quo literature as having no politics, which is completely untrue. It has a very strong political value; it just happens to be conservative.” Junot Díaz drops some knowledge in an interview with Vox. Pair with his Millions Interview from a few years back.
The huge, McSweeney’s-published, John Sayles novel A Moment in the Sun has been getting great reviews. It’s now out. Also new this week is China Mieville’s Embassytown, reviewed here today; Paul Theroux’s exploration of the genre of travel writing, The Tao of Travel; prizewinning Nigerian author Helon Habila’s new novel Oil on Water; and A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman, the complete stories of Margaret Drabble, recently written up by Joyce Carol Oates in the New Yorker. New in paperback are a pair of Millions Hall of Famers, Emma Donoghue’s Room and Justin Cronin’s The Passage.
Few people have a stranger life story than Jillian Lauren. A former party girl of a royal harem in Brunei, she overcame a heroin addiction to become, among other things, a writer with two memoirs to her name. At The Nervous Breakdown, she talks about her latest book, her religious faith and her adopted Ethiopian son.
“Many of the most powerful characters in our best-loved stories are orphaned, adopted, fostered, or found. At the same time, many of the most powerless citizens in our society are orphaned, adopted, or fostered children, and the marginalized adults that so many become. Why have so few of us even noticed this centuries-old disparity?” On literature’s most celebrated protagonists, from Oliver Twist to Anne of Green Gables.
Let’s take a moment to be jealous of other countries, shall we? In Iceland, “one in ten [residents] will publish something in their lifetime.” Norway’s government “buys 1,000 copies of every book a Norwegian author publishes. It provides a $19,000 annual subsidy to every author.” In Argentina, “the city of Buenos Aires now gives pensions to published writers.”
“Books: As with food and clothing, they’re a commodity that elicits status anxiety for many people, particularly the insecure. And wherever there is status anxiety, there are potential minefields. We need to tread with the lightness of meringue.” Henry Alford explains the etiquette of books for The New York Times.