Paula Fox, celebrated novelist and winner of the 1983 National Book Award (among other honors), died this week. Contributing to our Year in Reading series two years ago, Parul Sehgal said she couldn’t stop rereading Desperate Characters, perhaps Fox’s most popular book for adults. “It’s really a wallop of a book,” Sehgal wrote. “A barbed portrait of a marriage, not to mention a brilliant take on gentrification, white fears of black and brown people, the hostile insularity of the nuclear family, and how power reproduces and how power conceals itself.” (Bonus: Dominic Smith wants to send a scene from that novel into space.)
Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa has come back to haunt Salman Rushdie once again. Iran is threatening to boycott the Frankfurt Book Fair because Rushdie was invited to give the keynote speech. You could also read our essay on how Rushdie passed the time while in hiding.
There are a lot of writers who work in advertising, and it’s starting to have an impact. People are more likely to love brands if there is a story involved, according to a new study. “We’ve known for a long time there is no ‘buy’ button in the brain. But these results show there’s a ‘story’ button,” neuroscientist Paul Zak says. Pair with: Our essay on working at a creative agency after getting your MFA.
After word got out last week that J.K. Rowling regrets bringing Ron and Hermione together, many people responded with interesting takes on the news. The hubbub missed the full context of Rowling’s quotes, however, as they leaked from an interview in Wonderland magazine that hadn’t yet been released. Now the new issue of the the magazine is out, and the context changes things a bit: Rowling actually said the two “will be alright with a bit of counseling.”
“[E]ach video is a portrait of the artist as a beginner—and a look at the creative process, in all its joy, abjection, delusion, and euphoria.” The Paris Review has a new video series called “My First Time,” in which big-name authors talk about getting their start. Helen DeWitt, Jeffrey Eugenides, Sheila Heti, a chain-smoking Karl Ove Knausgaard – what more could anyone want? More origin stories, that’s what! Six writers – Colum McCann, Alexander Chee, Jami Attenberg, Emily St. John Mandel, Justin Taylor, and Anthony Marra – look back on their first books for us.