First published in 1979, Octavia E. Butler‘s Kindred remains a touchstone of speculative fiction. For Ploughshares, Kat Solomon takes a closer look at how Butler uses time travel to reckon with the main character’s family history of slavery in the antebellum South. “Like much great speculative fiction,” Solomon writes, “the fantastic in Kindred functions as both an opportunity for the unfolding of an unusual story while also serving as a kind of foundational metaphor, in this case for the ways that the history of slavery continues to assert itself in the present.”
“Three weeks before she died on July 25, 2012, Marcia (Marty) Brown Stern ’54 sent me a registered letter, which began, ‘What is enclosed may astonish you.’ Indeed it did. The envelope included a draft of ‘marcia,’ an unpublished poem that Sylvia Plath ’55 wrote about their sophomore year together at Smith College in 1951.”
On Zadie Smith in the Guardian: The new novel arrived fully-formed: Zadie Smith woke up one morning, and On Beauty was all there, in her head. She wanted to write a long marriage – she’d just got married herself, was curious what 30 years of it would be like – and she had a plot. When she described it to her new husband, poet and novelist Nick Laird, however, he pointed out she was simply rewriting Howards End. But she has never been afraid of tribute, and [E.M.] Forster was a “first love”; she had a couple of serious wobbles but this did not put her off.The Guardian also gives the book a good review. On Beauty comes out September 13.Every once in a while I spot an interesting looking item in those ads at the top of the page. Today I saw one for Out of Eden: Odyssey of Ecological Invasion by Alan Burdick. It looks like the sort of book you’d like if you like Jared Diamond’s books. It describes how different invasive species have managed to relocate to new parts of the globe.Tattoos and literature are becoming ever more enmeshed, it seems. Recent novels by Jill Ciment and John Irving dwell on tattoos, and now a Brooklyn writer, Shelley Jackson, “has been having volunteers tattooed with individual words of her 2,095-word short story (“Skin”) since 2003. Only 700 words remain to be tattooed.” Read about it here.Another online book-tracking and tagging application: Reader2
“[L]isting The Bible proves detrimental for both sexes while listing Fifty Shades of Grey results in women getting 16% fewer messages and Harry Potter losing men up to 55%.” In recent duh news, a study by dating site eHarmony found that book readers are found to be “more intellectually curious than most and find it easier to form open and trusting relationships with others” – but not all books are equal, reports The Independent.
The New York Public Library released more than 180,000 of its public-domain items, ranging from maps and manuscripts to ancient texts and sheet music. The files can be downloaded on the library’s website, available to the public without restriction.
“Motherhood has always been contested terrain, but for the last decade or so it’s been a virtual battleground; every year, almost like clockwork, we have another flare-up in the so-called Mommy Wars, with another Tiger Mom or Get-Back-To-Work-er or Can’t Have It all-er launching a grenade as prelude to a book tour. And as much as I have an obvious stake in these battles as a mother and a feminist, I’ve come to find them depressingly repetitive, all sound and fury but offering little in terms of the policies that might actually affect our decisions.” At the LARB, Stephanie Bower gives her take on Why Have Kids?, Jessica Valenti’s new treatise on parenting.