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.)
In the beginning was the word, and the word was plagiarized, and this regular old plagiarism was bad. But then Jonah Lehrer taught us about self-plagiarism, and that was bad, too, but somehow less so. And now Jane Goodall is teaching us about Wikipedia plagiarism, which seems bad as well, and you know what? It’s hard to grade these things anymore. What’s next? David Bowie cribbing lines from T.S. Eliot?
“Fantasy is a tool of the storyteller. It is a way of talking about things that are not, and cannot be, literally true. It is a way of making our metaphors concrete, and it shades into myth in one direction, allegory in another.” Neil Gaiman reviews Kazuo Ishiguro‘s The Buried Giant for the New York Times Book Review and considers the power, and risks, of fantasy. Pair with Ishiguro’s talk with The Telegraph about the 10 years since the publication of Never Let Me Go.
What’s the best book Mary Roach has read recently? Tim Johnston’s first novel, Descent: “I read the last 30 pages in an airport, 10 feet from the gate, and did not notice the boarding announcements. I missed my flight for literature.” Bonus: Here’s Roach’s interview with The Millions from a couple of years back.
“Percy’s victory set off a controversy that involved the most powerful man in publishing, a famous journalist eager to take credit for the award, and a cub reporter who would go on to become one of the most celebrated writers of our time.” Benjamin Hedin delves into the mysteries of a controversial award.