At Vulture, Kathryn VanArendonk reflects on the life and work of Beverly Cleary, who portrayed children with all their complexities, tantrums, and anger included. “Cleary’s true genius was for the emotional realism she gradually developed alongside that external grounding,” VanArendonk writes. “Her characters are not just kids who play like actual kids; they are people who have problems and desires that readers will recognize. Cleary’s honesty about anger, disappointment, and jealousy, her refusal to excuse those emotions in her characters or try to fix them quickly, her willingness to tell a story about a kid in a bad mood and let everybody see exactly how bad it really is — this is what feels most revolutionary about Cleary’s work. She saw the bad moods and she saw the scarily mundane things that cause the bad moods.”
Anne Fernald’s two posts about her grandmother’s editions of Virginia Woolf are a treat.Gwenda Bond of Shaken and Stirred landed on NPR over the weekend to talk about the 100th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables, in honor of which the Modern Library has put out a new edition.The Oxford Project: “In 1984, photographer Peter Feldstein set out to photograph every single resident of his town, Oxford, Iowa.” It’s a neat sounding photo book, reminiscent of La Porte, Indiana.Under 30? Really good at writing book reviews? You should enter VQR’s Young Reviewers Contest.It’s an alarm clock that wakes you up with the voice of Stephen Fry in the character of Jeeves. You can listen to all the recordings at the site. An example: “Let us seize the day and take it roughly from behind… as the Colonel used to say in his unfortunate way.”
Elizabeth Bishop’s Brazil. And earlier: Bishop, translation, and the transmutation of loss.
“Macbeth has a twist that sets it apart from every other Shakespearean tragedy: Macbeth murders his voice. Mad with fear that Banquo’s heirs will seize the throne, Macbeth has Banquo killed. After that, our antihero is on his own. There is no one left to verify what is real and what is not … When Macbeth’s voice dies, everything else disappears, too. Macbeth is alone.” This excerpt from Jillian Keenan’s Sex With Shakespeare touches on everything from sexuality in Singapore to The O.C. fan-fiction.
Scientists confirmed recently that writers are more likely to struggle with mental illness (sometimes, as recently noted, due to syphilis). Since we’re so used to our alcoholic literary greats, and a smattering of suicidal ones (Plath, Woolf, Thompson, Wallace–and many more), this comes as no great surprise. On a happier note, a new study using fMRIs and MFA students has found that writers show different brain patterns than “normal people” just writing: in fact they resemble “expert” thinking patterns of all professionals doing what they’re best at–musicians, athletes, competitive Scrabble players. I don’t know if I’m happier to learn the fMRIs found no gaping black holes, or that MFAs do in fact teach you something.