New York Magazine has an excerpt up from Zora Neale Hurston‘s long-lost manuscript, Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo, the first-person account of Cudjo Lewis, the only living survivor of the final slave ship to land in America. Barracoon will finally, 87 years later, be published next week.
“[G]uess what, spending hours of your spare time plowing through some dense and symbol-laden carnival of affectation and ambiguity only makes you resentful of the publishing industry that pushed the book on you in the first place.” Alex Balk at The Awl takes the piss out of recent studies that have suggested reading literary fiction might make us better people. Writer John Vaillant, whom we interviewed last year, might disagree.
“There are writers we instinctively, permanently dislike: not only will we never read them, we will quietly relish the not-reading, finding in it a pleasure that can occasionally rival reading itself.” Dan Piepenbring explores the advantages of not reading for the The Paris Review. Pair with our own Sonya Chung’s essay on the art of not finishing books.
In his column in the Chicago Tribune today, Eric Zorn describes a particularly ugly incident that occurred at a library not far from where I live. Somebody set fire to a number of books at the John Merlo branch of the Chicago Public Library. Making matters worse, it appears as though the arsonist targeted the gay and lesbian books section of the library, which itself is located in a neighborhood with a large gay population. From Zorn’s column: Staffers detected the fire quickly and used an extinguisher to put it out before anyone was hurt. The library remained open, and if you visit there today, the only reminders of the incident are gaps on several shelves where destroyed books used to sit.But the location makes it a bigger event. For both symbolic and safety reasons, the idea of arson in the stacks, no matter how relatively unsuccessful, is chilling. Public libraries are not only embodiments of liberty but, with all that paper, prospective tinderboxes.More chilling still to many is that the unknown arsonist chose to set the fire in the heart of the Chicago area’s largest unified collection of gay and lesbian-oriented books.Zorn explores the topic further at his blog explaining why he decided to devote his column to what was, admittedly, a very minor fire, wondering “Do we not, in some ways, magnify the power of a hate crime when we publicize it?”I’m glad he decided to write the column. Coming on the heels of a book-banning attempt in a nearby school district, it’s been a rough couple of months for books in the Chicago area.Update: It turns out it wasn’t a hate crime. As Eric Zorn explains, they caught the culprit, a 21-year-old homeless woman who set the fire because “she was angry at library staff for being rude to her.”
The deadline for DIAGRAM‘s essay contest is October 31, but mostly I just wanted an excuse to link to previous winner Cheyenne Nimes‘ “SECTION 404 OF THE CLEAN WATER ACT AND THE SANTA CRUZ RIVER SAND SHARK, SUBTITLED ‘THIS TROUBLESOME REGULATORY CONSTRAINT’.“