George Eliot, Translator of Human Emotions

Before she was George Eliot, Mary Ann Evans translated Spinoza’s magnum opus, Ethics, while she was living in Berlin. For the first time in more than a century, a new edition of her translation will be made available, and for the Guardian, Alison Flood and Lindesay Irvine take a look at how the translation sheds new light on Eliot’s life. “She was basically immersed in this project for a couple of years just before she began writing fiction,” says Clare Carlisle, a reader in philosophy and theology at King’s College London. “It was the last thing she did before she wrote her stories and became George Eliot. A large part of Spinoza’s Ethics gives this insightful analysis of human emotion, and I think that’s something she obviously learned from, because she has this really amazing understanding of human emotions and how they work.”

Image credit: Alexandre-Louis-François d’Albert-Durade

Overlooked Heroines of the African-American Press

For the New York Review of Books, Maya Millet examines the buried history of the heroines of America’s Black Press. For many people, Ida B. Wells remains the most well-known black woman journalist, but Millet encouraged readers to dig deeper: “[Wells] was part of a much larger network of black women journalists who dared to wield their pens in the names of truth and justice. At a time when all women were discouraged from engaging in ‘unladylike’ activities like politics, the women of the black press were boldly writing about racial justice, gender equality, and political reform.”

Image credit: Project Gutenberg e-book of Sparkling Gems of Race Knowledge Worth Reading

Sarah M. Broom on Unfinished Work

Newly announced National Book Award winner Sarah M. Broom recently spoke to the new class of Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant winners about the importance of sitting with unfinished work, and an excerpt from her talk can be found in the Paris Review. “The unfinished work is no less real, or necessary, or powerful than the book,” Broom says. “How we need it, this work, these long, beautiful digressions, these surprises. May we continue to gift writers with the time for wildness. May they ramble, digress, go beyond the edges of all the known and touted maps, may they hew close to the question, to unearth the questions beyond.”

Tommy Pico on Being a Poem

Poet Tommy Pico spoke to Joseph Osmundson for the New York Review of Books about therapy, the New Native American Renaissance, and the language of food, among other things. Pico also discusses the concept of being a poem, referring to the line “Shall I be a poem for you?” from his latest book, Feed. “I’m definitely a poem for my parents,” he says. “You know that Langston Hughes quote about a dream deferred? That’s me to them. They wanted to be poets. But they didn’t come up in a time when that was possible for them. And they had responsibilities, and they had kids, which is not something you’re gonna catch me doing.”

In the Kitchen with Shirley Jackson

For the Paris Review, Valerie Stivers crafts recipes inspired by literature, and for fall, she turned to Shirley Jackson. Stivers takes on the poisoned meal from We Have Always Lived in the Castle —minus the arsenic-sprinkled blueberries, of course. “Can all witches cook?” Stivers asks. “If the writer Shirley Jackson (1916–1965), a self-styled witch as well as one of the greats of twentieth-century literature, is anything to go by, the answer is yes, and the rule becomes interesting: domestic goddesshood is not quite what we expect from a horror writer, as Jackson was often (mis)labeled.”

Constance Garnett Gets Her Due

At Lit Hub, Sara Wheeler shares an excerpt from her book, Mud and Stars, focusing on Constance Garnett, an “indefatigable worker” who translated the works of Dostoevsky and Chekhov. As she brought these writers further into the English mainstream, the translator gained her fair share of admirers. “Garnett made Dostoyevsky a household name, and he did the same for her. Ernest Hemingway was one of many who admired her Dostoyevskys, as well as her Tolstoys. ‘I remember,’ he told a friend, ‘how many times I tried to read War and Peace until I got the Constance Garnett translation.'”

The Refugee’s Story with Dina Nayeri

As the author of two novels, Dina Nayeri uses fiction to inform nonfiction in her latest book, The Ungrateful Refugee. Jessica Goudeau spoke to Nayeri for Guernica about the ways fiction has helped her when working with refugees and their stories. “You have to learn to write fiction in order to learn how to tell the truth,” Nayeri says. “In fiction, if you dare to write anything more than what actually happened, then you’re very quickly told you’re being sentimental. And that would be absolutely true! It’s way more powerful to allow readers to find the power and the emotion and the heartbreak for themselves.”

Aja Gabel on Apocalypse Stories

As a first-hand witness to the California wildfires, Aja Gabel reflects on how the natural disaster has changed her views on apocalypse stories for Alta. “I’m disoriented and nauseated watching what I love burn up,” Gabel writes. “It’s not as easy to describe as what I wrote in my apocalypse stories, to witness the incineration of a way of life. And I don’t love apocalypse stories anymore, anyway. I feel like I’m in one.”

Image credit: Senior Master Sgt. Dennis W. Goff

A Postcard from Your Favorite Author

A personalized postcard from the likes of Viet Thanh Nguyen, Valeria Luiselli, or Edwidge Danticat could be a unique holiday gift for someone, and The Common has you covered. This month it launches its sixth annual postcard auction, headlined by the above authors, as well as André Aciman, Susan Choi, Mira Jacob, Ann Patchett, George Saunders, and many, many more. “Authors are enthusiastic about connecting with their fans this way,” says The Common’s editor-in-chief, Jennifer Acker. “It’s infinitely more personal than social media, and as a physical object, the postcard lasts as a keepsake. Often recipients frame the cards they receive.” All proceeds directly benefit The Common, supporting payment to and mentorship of emerging authors and the magazine’s extensive community programs. Online bidding takes place here.

Image credit: Camden Public Library

The First Banned Book in America

It seems fitting that the author of the first book explicitly banned in the United States should have the nickname the “Lord of Misrule.” At Atlas Obscura, Matthew Taub recounts the story of Thomas Morton, an English businessman who had a knack for riling up Puritans. “[Morton] revived forbidden old-world customs, faced off with a Puritian militia determined to quash his pagan festivals, and wound up in exile. He eventually sued and, like any savvy rabble-rouser should, got a book deal out of the whole affair. Published in 1637, his New English Canaan mounted a harsh and heretical critique of Puritan customs and power structures that went far beyond what most New English settlers could accept. So they banned it—making it likely the first book explicitly banned in what is now the United States.”