At The New Yorker, Anna Holmes reflects on the radical life of Goodnight, Moon author Margaret Wise Brown, and how she pushed the boundaries of children’s books. “When Brown was emerging as a writer, in the nineteen-thirties,” Holmes explains, “most books for young children drew on classic fables and folktales, providing moral instruction on each page. She rejected this orthodoxy in favor of stories that better reflected the preoccupations of young children, from sensual pleasures (the shape of an apple) to visceral emotions (fear of the dark). […] Even though her work embraced everyday subjects, it was far from banal. Brown incorporated influences from avant-garde literature, concentrating as much on the sound of words as on the words themselves. And she often commissioned illustrations from modernist painters who understood the allure of bold color. Brown helped create a new type of children’s literature that provided both aural and visual feasts.”
“Far more than any other medium, books contain civilizations, the ongoing conversation between present and past. Without this conversation we are lost. But books are also a business….” Jason Epstein explains how publishing works—and why, increasingly, it doesn’t, at the New York Review of Books. (via)
“War veterans experience something called hypervigilance, a mental state of continual alertness for danger. I have a minor version of this, a writer’s version. For me, danger lies in the sound of a footstep, a spoken word. Anyone could destroy the fragile construction I have to make each day.” Roxana Robinson writes for VQR about the writer’s need for solitude. For more from Robinson, be sure to check out her essay for The Millions on Edith Wharton.
J.K. Rowling is one of the most successful writers in the world, but the one person she wanted to see her success never got to — her mother. “She never knew about Harry Potter – I started writing it six months before she died, so that is painful. I wish she’d known,” she said during an interview with BBC Radio 4. She discussed her mother’s death, multiple sclerosis, rugby, and more when she guest edited an edition of “Woman’s Hour.”
Michael Lewis’s last book made our Hall of Fame. Now he’s back with a new book that widens his focus to the financial dramas around the world with Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World. Also out this week, Jose Saramago’s posthumously published Cain, Helen DeWitt’s long-awaited Lightning Rods, Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table (reviewed here), Anne Enright’s The Forgotten Waltz, Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers, Jim Harrison’s The Great Leader, and Booker shortlisted The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. Also out: From the master of “molecular gastronomy,” The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria and, as noted in our recent piece “What Ever Happened to the New Atheism?” The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins.
New this week: Summer House With Swimming Pool by Hermann Koch; I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-Sook Shin; The Book of Unknown Americans by Year in Reading alum Cristina Henríquez; In the Wolf’s Mouth by Adam Foulds; The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh; The Girl Who was Saturday Night by Helen O’Neill; and two new books, Paper Lantern and Ecstatic Cahoots, by Stuart Dybek.