For the New York Times, Carmen Maria Machado explains why banning books and challenging the ideas within them robs readers of a chance to better understand the world. “Those who seek to ban my book and others like it are trying to exploit fear — fear about the realities that books like mine expose, fear about desire and sex and love — and distort it into something ugly, in an attempt to wish away queer experiences,” Machado writes. “As anyone can tell you — as history can tell you — this is ultimately a fool’s errand. Ideas don’t disappear when they’re challenged; banned books have a funny way of enduring. But that doesn’t mean these efforts are without consequences.”
For years, Jang Jin Sung traveled within Kim Jong-il’s inner circle. As North Korea’s official poet laureate, he was tasked with “writing epic poems for [the] dictator … and overseeing inter-Korean espionage.” But in 2004, fearing a charge of treason, Sung fled the country, becoming one of the nation’s most high-profile defectors. Recently, Sung – who just published his memoir – spoke with Maclean’s about his life, his escape, and literature.
“So a single image can split open the hard seed of the past, and soon memory pours forth from every direction, sprouting its vines and flowers up around you till the old garden’s taken shape in all its fragrant glory.” Read an excerpt from Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir at Longreads. Pair with Beth Kephart’s essay on how memoir can be a conversation between reader and writer.
New this week is Jonathan Evison’s West of Here, Joyce Carol Oates’ memoir A Widow’s Story about the death of her husband (this was the source of her recent, quite moving essay in the New Yorker), and the expanded rerelease of Alexander Theroux’s The Strange Case of Edward Gorey. Also new on shelves from NYRB Classics is Irretrievable by Theodor Fontane, with an introduction by Phillip Lopate, who discussed Fontane in our Year in Reading in December.
“Even if I bought cars in department store parking lots, and even if I followed small children down wooded paths, I still knew better than to accept tuna fish from strangers in national parks.” At The Hairpin, Jami Attenberg writes about meeting a street preacher in Moab. For more Attenberg, read her not-quite-a-restaurant review of Café de La Esquina at The Morning News.
Vladimir Nabokov spent twenty years translating “the first and fundamental Russian novel,” Aleksandr Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. His battle with the text sparked an intellectual debate with his former friend, Edmund Wilson. The Paris Review has his notes. Pair with our own Lydia Kiesling’s thoughts on Lolita.