Ling Ma’s 2018 novel, Severance, is popping up on everyone’s pandemic TBR pile, due to parallels between the fictitious “Shen Fever” and the current-day coronavirus. For the Ringer, Jane Hu looks at why this novel resonates so deeply with our contemporary situation. “While I do not begrudge anyone the catharsis of readerly projection—especially during these bizarre times—that doesn’t mean that ‘Severance: it’s just like us’ hot takes are missing the point,” Hu writes. “For as the pandemic precipitates spikes in xenophobic sentiments, any over-identification with Ma’s novel based primarily on its ethnic coordinates […] should give us pause. That its author, a Chinese American immigrant, has refrained from all media requests is perhaps telling.”
“He wrote the first drafts by hand, and when that became too difficult, dictated sections of the book into a tape recorder.” Before his death in July, playwright and actor Sam Shepard wrote a novel called Spy of the First Person, which is forthcoming from Knopf in December. From our archives, a list of writers who also act.
In The Atlantic, Johnathan A. Knee writes about how curation and aggregation can be more profitable than content creation. That is the idea behind BookLamp, a new search engine based on books’ content and writing style, not sales data. “At times, being able to ignore the marketing data can be good for the recommendation,” explains CEO Aaron Stanton.
“Ms. Gitelman’s argument may seem like an odd lens on familiar history. But it’s representative of an emerging body of work that might be called ‘paperwork studies.’ True, there are not yet any dedicated journals or conferences. But in history, anthropology, literature and media studies departments and beyond, a group of loosely connected scholars are taking a fresh look at office memos, government documents and corporate records, not just for what they say but also for how they circulate and the sometimes unpredictable things they do.”
Recommended Reading: On Raymond Carver’s birthday, his brother James stopped by Electric Literature to share his memories of what it was like growing up with the man behind such works as Will You Please Be Quiet, Please and What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.