With another film adaptation coming soon, Jane Austen‘s Emma is back in the cultural conversation. For JSTOR Daily, Erin Blakemore examines the popularity of the novel’s matchmaking protagonist, questioning whether she or another character, Jane Fairfax, is the true heroine. “Well-behaved and wary in public and witty in private, Austen chafed at societal obsessions with marriage, rank, and social status,” Blakemore writes. “That makes Emma a decided aberration. Unlike her other novels, which star put-upon women trying to navigate social systems that constrain them, Emma stars the ultimate insider, the kind of woman for whom those structures of hierarchy have been designed.”
“Why write in an unlovable genre with an inevitably hectoring tone? Dystopia, situated in a dangerous no-man’s-land between the pulpit of the preacher and the safe sniper post of the satirist.” Future futurists, take note: the New York Review of Books reviews Chang-Rae Lee’s addition to your dystopic shelf, On Such a Full Sea, and ponders the virtues of the dystopic endeavor itself. (Bonus: Lee writes about his own 2013 Year in Reading here at The Millions.)
The Toast announced their first vertical this week, and even better than its name (The Butter, of course) is its editor – Roxane Gay, darling of the literary internet and author of Bad Feminist and An Untamed State. In answer to the question “What will this particular vertical be like?” Toast editor Mallory Ortberg said “WHATEVER ROXANE WANTS IT TO BE,” so we have a lot to look forward to. Pair with The Millions’s review of An Untamed State and Gay’s 2013 “A Year in Reading.”
Mallory Ortberg of The Toast, whose Ayn Rand-inspired versions of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and You’ve Got Mail we told you about a few months ago, is back it at again. Now Rand (er, I mean, Ortberg) has her sights set on the dubiously libertarian children’s classic If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. If we give you the article, you’ll probably ask us for an essay by Gary Percesepe about meeting Ayn Rand’s editor to go along with it.
“When I go back to Bogotá, I like to share my knowledge of the car bombs that went off in the city in the ’80s and ’90s. I helpfully point out the gory details to cab drivers and friends. I press my finger on the window and point at corners, ‘That’s the spot where an ATM blew up, seven dead.’” From Bogatá to Tel Aviv — here are ten writers on the places they immigrated from, returned to, remember, and call home.
If you’re a professor or mentor, it’s the time of year you should expect to be hit up for recommendation letters. You can find inspiration in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s recommendation letter for Walt Whitman, when the latter was seeking government employment despite his controversial poetry. “He is known to me as a man of strong original genius, combining, with marked eccentricities, great powers & valuable traits of character: a self-relying large-hearted man, much beloved by his friends.” Even if the government didn’t like Whitman’s work, we do; read our own Michael Bourne’s essay on the power of Whitman’s poetry.