At the Paris Review, Adrienne Raphel looks back at Beverly Cleary’s beloved Ramona Quimby series, and notes that the books are riddled with odd discrepancies that are both puzzling and charming. “Ramona taught us how to look for the weirdness in the everyday,” Raphel writes, “and the everyday in the scariest moments. When she wears a particularly gruesome witch costume in Ramona the Pest (the baddest witch in the world!,’ she declares), she begins the day delighted with her anonymity, but ends terrified by the greatest fear of all: no one will know who she is. So, she carries a huge poster with her name on it, presumably beaming under the warty disguise. The mask itself isn’t scary—disappearing, anonymity, being forgotten is what’s most frightening of all.”
“In publishing, we see this play out in a number of ways. Marginalized writers are told by white editors, we need your stories now more than ever, as if we have not always needed them urgently. We are told our experiences are timely, exotic, and trendy. We are told our stories are not authentic if our characters do not suffer, as if the only way to prove that we are human is to bleed.” Natalia Sylvester on the erasure that comes when marginalized writers are constantly being told by the publishing industry and others that your book about your marginalized identity is ‘timely’.
“Riordan’s books prompt an uneasy interrogation of the premise underlying the ‘so long as they’re reading’ side of the debate—at least among those of us who want to share Neil Gaiman’s optimistic view that all reading is good reading, and yet find ourselves by disposition closer to the Tim Parks end of the spectrum, worried that those books on our children’s shelves that offer easy gratification are crowding out the different pleasures that may be offered by less grabby volumes.” In an essay for The New Yorker, Rebecca Mead considers questions about what children should be reading through the lens of the Percy Jackson series.
Read here, in the University of Washington’s alumni magazine, about how Marilynne Robinson approaches a book’s essence as “an elaborate needlepoint of decisions and observations”; how novels visit upon her as surprises; and how her recent move to New York might spawn yet another gift to readers.
Today, stuff yourself on envy and/or nostalgia for the NYC literary life. First, whet your appetite on the New Yorker’s gorgeous illustrations of notable bookstores, including one “the size of a luxurious Park Avenue closet.” Continue to a responsible main course essay on Choire Sicha, The Awl, and the Brooklyn loft building where it was founded and resides: a place that is “pleasant” but “a little dumpy, too, because that’s sort of our MO.” For dessert, savor Erin Loeb’s personal essay on leaving New York, and finish with a fittingly varied cheese course of other writers also saying goodbye.