For The LA Review of Books, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor reviews Saidiya Hartman’s new book, Wayward Crossings, Beautiful Experiments. The book, which Taylor describes as “a radical, genre-defying examination of the lives of ‘ordinary’ young Black women” in the early 20th century, is an exercise in understanding these women’s lives without sensationalizing, idealizing, or dismissing their experiences. Hartman’s subjects, Taylor writes, are found “on the periphery of archival refuse,” and she celebrates the “black city-within-a-city” that they helped create in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago in particular. Ultimately, Hartman is interested “in the multitude of ways that Black women ‘made a way out of no way,’ whether through flight, migration, work, sex, singing, dancing, screaming, and all of the social and cultural innovation born from pure defiance and a refusal to do what you are told.”
“Publishing is also an industry that selectively values a kind of swaggering authenticity that would never capitulate to demands for something so banal as being nice. But authenticity is too often a short hand for callous, aloof, or honest for the purpose of cruelty rather than truth-seeking.” Alana Massey writes about the “niceness” of publishing.
Now that you can purchase the letters of William Styron, you can note how especially funny (and sad) it is that Darkness Visible, the author’s book-of-self-help-slash-memoir-slash-confession, sold well enough to overshadow the novels that made his name.
Following the Irish release of The Guts, the new Roddy Doyle novel that brings back Jimmy Rabbitte from The Commitments, The Irish Times interviews Doyle, who remembers a time when his writing garnered him death threats. Sample quote: “I drove the guy in the next room demented as I replayed an old tape, repeating the same musical phrase, again and again.”