The Ripped Bodice (the only bookstore in the United States dedicated solely to romance books) released a report looking at the state of diversity in 2016 romance novels. Last year there were only 7.8 published romance novels by writers of color for every 100 books from 20 major romance publishing companies. “Of particular concern is the suggestion, as revealed by the study, that publishers are not reflecting their readership base with any kind of parity. According to Pew Research, black women with college degrees are more likely to read a book than any other group. Since romance readers are approximately 84 percent female, this suggests there is a large swath of the population who don’t see themselves represented in authors or protagonists.” Entertainment Weekly highlights some major takeaways from the survey, read the rest of the appalling stats and then go support romance writers of color.
Out this week: The Complete Journalism of James Agee; Straight Razor by Randall Mann; The Long Voyage: Selected Letters of Malcolm Cowley; The Virgil Encyclopedia; and a new e-book edition of Incarnadine, the poetry collection by Mary Szybist that won this year’s National Book Award.
This month the Cleveland International Film Festival will show Dear Mr. Watterson, a film exploring “how … a simple comic strip became so meaningful to such a massive and diverse group of people.” Yet despite the subject matter, the actual author of the Calvin and Hobbes series will almost certainly be absent from the screenings. Over at Full Stop, Liv Combe looks at the ways Bill Watterson is “keeping the idea of the private public figure alive.”
Recommended Reading: “The Misanthropic Genius of Joy Williams” in The New York Times Magazine. Her latest collection of short stories, The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories, which was included on our most anticipated list, will be released on September 8th. “When I asked Williams what she wants out of a great story, she replied, ‘I want to be devastated in some way.’”
Over at The Margins, Franny Choi, Ali Eteraz, and others respond to Calvin Trillin’s New Yorker poem, “Have They Run Out of Provinces Yet?” As they put it, “Trillin is part of the ‘we’ in his poem but it’s clear that Chinese and Chinese American people are not. Instead, invoking Yellow Peril fears, Trillin speaks of the threat food from ‘more provinces’ while ignoring that those provinces are home to people, too.”
“What traits make Austen special, and can they be measured with data? Can literary genius be graphed?” The New York Times tackles the question of why, 200 years after her death, Jane Austen is still so popular. (One finding: the author“used intensifying words — like very, much, so — at a higher rate than other writers.”) See also: our interview with Curtis Sittenfeld, whose most-recent novel Eligible is the ultimate literary tribute, an adaptation of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Doors of Perception author Aldous Huxley requested a dose of LSD as he succumbed to laryngeal cancer in 1963. Three weeks later, Huxley’s widow, Laura Archera, wrote a letter describing the experience (“the most beautiful death”) to her brother-in-law. Today the prescription of psychedelic drugs to terminally ill patients is less uncommon than you might expect.