Last Week’s Links

100 Books to Read Before You Die

When you find yourself not knowing what book to pick up next, here’s a list that contains “a mix of modern fiction, true stories, and timeless classics.”

The deep roots of writing

Was writing invented for accounting and administration or did it evolve from religious movements, sorcery and dreams?

Writers to Watch Fall 2018: Anticipated Debuts

This fall’s collection of promising debuts features problem children, supernatural freedom fighters, captive mermaids, mad scientists, righteous vigilantes, and, last but not least, a narrating dog.

I used to stay away from narrating dogs, but a recent reading of The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein may have changed my mind—or at least opened it a bit.

Attention, Please: Anne Tyler Has Something to Say

A look at the life of one of my favorite authors.

“Every time I begin a book I think this one is going to be completely different, and then it isn’t,” Tyler said. “I would like to have something new and different, but have never had the ambition to completely change myself. If I try to think of some common thread, I really think I’m deeply interested in endurance. I don’t think living is easy, even for those of us who aren’t scrounging. It’s hard to get through every day and say there’s a good reason to get up tomorrow. It just amazes me that people do it, and so cheerfully. The clearest way that you can show endurance is by sticking with a family. It’s easy to dump a friend, but you can’t so easily dump a brother. How did they stick together, and what goes on when they do? — all those things just fascinate me.”

STRONG WOMEN ARE TAKING OVER THE THRILLER

Novelist Cristina Alger offers a list of novels that present the kind of modern heroine she’s looking for:

I find the collective lack of strong, tough, reliable heroines depressing. Are unreliable women the only women we want to read about? And why do so many female authors choose to focus on them? I’m not asking for female protagonists to be perfect. But I would like to see more fictional women who have a true sense of agency, intelligence and guts—women with the same characteristics we’ve come to expect from the male heroes of traditional thrillers.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

John Irving, The Art of Fiction No. 93

I’m not a twentieth-century novelist, I’m not modern, and certainly not postmodern. I follow the form of the nineteenth-century novel; that was the century that produced the models of the form. I’m old-fashioned, a storyteller. I’m not an analyst and I’m not an intellectual.

WHICH BOOKS DO FAMOUS AUTHORS READ AND RECOMMEND MOST?

OR, HOW TO READ LIKE YOUR FAVORITE WRITERS

By examining 68 lists made by famous authors of books they love, Emily Temple has produced lists of the most recommended books and the most recommended authors.

SIX LATIN AMERICAN NOVELS THAT ARE PUSHING BOUNDARIES

Because it’s important to look at literature of other countries besides our own.

Today’s real Latin America is vibrant, raucous, infinitely complex and furiously engaged with the cultural and sociopolitical effects of globalization. In terms of literature, it’s an epicenter of innovation, where the gaze is reversed, boundaries explode and the possibilities of our collective past, present and future are boldly reimagined. Here are six contemporary Latin American novels — all of them slim, all of them brilliant, all of them blowing up boundaries of culture, gender, genre, aesthetics or reality.

The Sublime Horror of Choice

I don’t like horror novels, but if you do, this interview is for you.

Each recent book of Tremblay’s seems to me to take on a subgenre of the horror genre. He both explores it and puts pressure on it to see if he can make it do something new. Paul is anything but a complacent writer — rather than resting on his laurels, he offers work that is consistently new and unique.

Gillian Flynn Isn’t Going to Write the Kind of Women You Want

In a conversation with fellow novelist Megan Abbott, the Sharp Objects writer discusses the female rage that powered her 2006 debut novel—and has since taken over Hollywood.

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Internet reading that caught my eye over the past week.

Megan Abbott’s Bloodthirsty Murderesses

The thriller writer probes the psychological underpinnings of female rage.

Because, Abbott says, “girls are darker than boys.”

New Black Gothic

Sheri-Marie Harrison, associate professor of English at the University of Missouri, explains what she calls the new black Gothic in the novels of Jesmyn Ward and in other popular formats such as television, music video, and film.

Ward’s award-winning novels are among a number of works, literary and otherwise, that rework Gothic traditions for the 21st century… Ward engages specifically the Southern Gothic tradition. In American literature, there is a long tradition of using Gothic tropes to reveal how ideologies of American exceptionalism rely on repressing the nation’s history of slavery, racism, and patriarchy. Such tropes are, as numerous critics have noted, central to the work of Toni Morrison.

The Women Who Write: Michelle Dean’s Sharp

A review of Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion by Michelle Dean (Grove Atlantic).

This critical history is a rogues’ gallery of literary femaleness – even though most of the women in it rightly bristled at being defined as “woman writers.” Dean’s exemplars are, in chapter if not birth order, Dorothy Parker; Rebecca West; Hannah Arendt; Mary McCarthy; Susan Sontag; Pauline Kael; Joan Didion; Nora Ephron; Renata Adler; and Janet Malcolm. Most have at least a few things in common. While some doubled as novelists, all are distinguished for their non-fiction, with fully half reaching eminence via The New Yorker.

Amy Adams Explores Her Dark Side

An article about the amazing actor about to appear in the HBO production of Gillian Flynn’s novel Sharp Objects.

For the French Author Édouard Louis, His Books Are His Weapon

Édouard Louis uses literature as a weapon. “I write to shame the dominant class,” said the 25-year-old French writer in a recent interview.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

These are the stories from the internet that piqued my interest over the last week.

Why We Don’t Read, Revisited

Caleb Crain, in a follow-up to a decade-old report on Americans’ reading habits, reports that the time Americans spend reading continues to decline. “Television, rather than the Internet, likely remains the primary force distracting Americans from books.”

And, he points out, “The nation, after all, is now led by a man who doesn’t read.”

The Fairytale Language of the Brothers Grimm

How the Brothers Grimm went hunting for fairytales and accidentally changed the course of historical linguistics and kickstarted a new field of scholarship in folklore.

Truth, Lies, and Literature

Salman Rushdie ponders the role of truth in our disputatious time of unsupported pronouncements and declarations of fake news. How can literature help support current notions of what’s real and what isn’t?

when we read a book we like, or even love, we find ourselves in agreement with its portrait of human life. Yes, we say, this is how we are, this is what we do to one another, this is true. That, perhaps, is where literature can help most. We can make people agree, in this time of radical disagreement, on the truths of the great constant, which is human nature. Let’s start from there.

Our Fiction Addiction: Why Humans Need Stories

A report on scholars “who are asking what exactly makes a good story, and the evolutionary reasons that certain narratives – from Homer’s Odyssey to Harry Potter – have such popular appeal.”

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Dystopian dreams: how feminist science fiction predicted the future
Innovative narrative game Dialogue: A Writer’s Story out now

Studio co-founder and designer of Dialogue, Dustin Connor, added: “Conversation can be different depending on the context and participants, and we wanted to craft different visuals and mechanics for different conversations to reflect that. Some are timed and ‘in the moment’, while others are exploratory. Our game is a starting point – we want to see other developers experiment with their own conversation mechanics, and we want to lend our experience as consultants to make that process easier.”

True Detective season three: what HBO needs to fix to do the show justice

If you’ve watched the first two seasons of HBO’s True Detective, you’ll be interested in what Paul Owen has to say here:

on Monday news came that we needed to brace ourselves for a potential third season of True Detective, with Pizzolatto teaming up with David Milch, the co-creator of NYPD Blue and Deadwood. The new season has yet to be greenlit. But if it is coming back, here are three major problems it has to fix to be worth giving another chance

‘The Death of Expertise’ Explores How Ignorance Became a Virtue

The inimitable Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times reviews Tom Nichols’s book on a “wave of anti-rationalism that has been accelerating for years — manifested in the growing ascendance of emotion over reason in public debates, the blurring of lines among fact and opinion and lies, and denialism in the face of scientific findings about climate change and vaccination.”

These 4 first novels will leave you hungry for what the authors do next

Read about these author-debut novels:

  1. Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
  2. The Young Widower’s Handbook by Tom McAllister
  3. Himself by Jess Kidd
  4. Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

What I’ve Been Reading

What Makes a Person: The Seven Layers of Identity in Literature and Life
Why ‘The Outsiders’ Lives On: A Teenage Novel Turns 50
A FEW WORDS ABOUT THAT TEN-MILLION-DOLLAR SERIAL COMMA
Critical thinking instruction in humanities reduces belief in pseudoscience
New Crop of Young Adult Novels Explores Race and Police Brutality

 

Last Week’s Links

All the buzz this week has been related to the U.S. inauguration.

Knitting protesters grab back at Trump with pink cat hats

The day after Donald Trump is inaugurated president, the signature fashion statement of women marching in protest will be this: a handmade pink “pussy hat” with cat ears tipped directly at Trump and the word he uttered unforgettably on a hot mike. Call it an effort to grab it back.

Both playful and polemic, the cheeky pink hats will appear by the thousands at the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., and at similar demonstrations in cities across America on Saturday.

Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books

New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani reports on an interview with President Obama, who said that “reading gave him the ability to occasionally ‘slow down and get perspective’ and ‘the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes.’” Kakutani points out that Obama found helpful presidential biographies and the writings of Lincoln, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. But she reports that novels were also important; examples include Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, the novels of Marilynne Robinson, and the science fiction apocalyptic novel The Three-Body Problem by Chinese writer Liu Cixin.

The New “O” Book Club: 12 Fiction Picks from President Obama 

Off the Shelf elaborates on the previous story with a list of 12 books recommended by President Obama.

Every book Barack Obama has recommended during his presidency

And here is the definitive list, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Inauguration sparks writers to lead protest

This article in the Boston Globe discusses protests around the U.S. by writers who oppose the policies of President-Elect Donald Trump. Here’s what one protest organizer has to say about these planned events:

“I think when you are engaging in the diversity of human experiences, you cannot help but have a broader empathy for people who struggle,” says [Daniel Evans] Pritchard, a poet and translator who is editor and publisher of the journal the Critical Flame. “Writers are engaged in that every day, through language. And that’s important because language is the medium we use to construct our laws and our politics.”

 

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

He Fixes Cracked Spines, Without an Understudy

A wonderful story about Donald Vass, who cares for damanged books for the King County Public Library system near Seattle, WA. At age 57, Voss is approaching retirement age, but there’s no one to take his place.

NOT MY SHERLOCK

There was a lot of discussion on my Facebook feed about how bad the first episode of the new season of BBC’s drama Sherlock was. I don’t watch the show, so I can’t comment. Here, dedicated Holmes fan Brittany Cavallaro discusses how the making of a series from a canon of self-contained stories affects the way the persona of Sherlock Holmes is presented.

Sherlock’s New World Order

Josephine Livingstone uses that first of the season’s Sherlock episode as a springboard to a larger discussion of the role of detective fiction in society:

Murder mystery detectives usually live on the outskirts of society, or they pass unnoticed (Miss Marple, Father Brown) under the noses of authority. But that very outsider status depends on a stability at the middle of society. That stability is now wobbling. For as long as Sherlock can winkingly engage with its own tradition without becoming an absurd relic of a time of lost safety, it will succeed in helping its viewers escape their lives. But if it continues to overreach, to act out its plots on the global stage, the show will fall apart.

Considering the Novel in the Age of Obama

Christian Lorentzen looks at fiction as it represents the cultural times of various American presidents.

What will we mean when someday we refer to Obama Lit? I think we’ll be discussing novels about authenticity, or about “problems of authenticity.” What does that mean? After the Bush years, sheer knowingness and artifice that called attention to itself had come to seem flimsy foundations for the novel. Authenticity succeeded storytelling abundance as the prime value of fiction, which meant that artifice now required plausible deniability. The new problems for the novelist became, therefore, how to be authentic (or how to create an authentic character) and how to achieve “authenticity effects” (or how to make artifice seem as true or truer than the real).

According to Lorentzen, four types of books have sprung from “four strategies of approaching the problem of authenticity”:

  1. autofiction, “narratives that appear to do away with much of fiction’s familiar scaffolding”
  2. fables of meritocracy, “often satiric”
  3. historical novels set in the near past
  4. narratives that “have placed the experience of trauma — rape, pedophilia, homophobic abuse, incarceration, the horrors of war — at their center”

This is a long read, but it’s well worth the time and effort required for the analysis of several recent novels within this framework.

Meryl Streep’s 10 Best Book-Based Movie Roles

In honor of Meryl Streep’s anti-Trump speech, here’s a look at her best book-based movies:

  1. Kramer vs. Kramer
  2. The French Lieutenant’s Woman
  3. Sophie’s Choice
  4. Out of Africa
  5. Ironweed
  6. Postcards from the Edge
  7. The Bridges of Madison County
  8. Adaptation
  9. The Devil Wears Prada
  10. Julie and Julia

I’ve seen eight of these films.

What About You?

How many of these have you seen?

 

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Video Games Are Changing the Hero

Videogame heroes take up a larger amount of people’s imaginations today than they ever have before. In the cultural economy they are as big a force as the heroes in books and movies. But as relatively new as videogame heroes are, some still question their ability to impact us on the level of more traditional art.

Jon Irwin argues that the hero’s story in a video game is not static, locked in, as it is when we read a book or watch film. Rather, when we take on the hero’s persona while playing a video game, the hero’s story plays out according to the decisions we make along the way. He backs up his point with references to scientific studies.

There’s an interesting point to contemplate here: in a video game we don’t merely observe a character, we become the character. How does this changed perspective affect the way we understand the significance of the hero’s story?

Reading Etiquettes for Dummies

What I am going to tell you is the correct way to read

I’m always a little suspicious of any title telling you what you must or should do. Nonetheless, Naina does have some good advice for anyone whose New Year resolution is to start a reading program.

However, most of you reading this blog will already be avid readers, with your own ways of approaching reading. I’m curious to hear:

What is your reaction to Naina’s directives? Do you use any of these approaches, and do they work for you? Let us know in the comments.

Fahrenheit Zero: 7 of the Best Novels Set in the Depths of Winter

As yet another snowstorm blankets the Northeast, settle in for a reading adventure with one of these “novels that explore winter in all of its forms, from the tragic to the comic, and from the terrifying to the transcendental.”

Farewell to the reader in chief

In the San Francisco Chronicle John McMurtrie bids a fond farewell to President Obama, who “has been an exemplary ambassador for literature, a leader who has championed reading as a way to open our eyes to the world, to nurture understanding, to see ourselves in others.”

McMurtrie also takes a look at our next President-Elect Trump, who “claims he doesn’t have the time to read.” McMurtrie ends with a call to action for writers and other artists:

there is no reason that these coming years cannot be a time in which writers, and all artists, create meaningful works, works that celebrate the true wealth of the world in all its diversity of peoples and cultures and experiences, works that question and provoke.

What Doctors Can Learn From Looking at Art

Medical schools and hospitals are beginning to include the reading of literature in their training programs for physicians. Here Dhruv Khullar, M.D., explains why:

Therein lies the significance of learning through art: It is subtle and indirect, yet it ingrains insights deep within your consciousness. You feel and know even before you can think or speak.

 

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

15 Incredible Movies That Started As Books

How many of these have you heard of or seen? I’ve heard of nine but have only seen five.

On the Merits of Annotating

There’s no doubt than annotating books makes us active readers. Here’s how Anthony DeFeo writes his notes in the margin:

As I read, I keep a pen in hand. Whenever something comes along that intrigues me — if a reaction pops into my head, or I have a prediction, or I want to make a note of something useful for future reference as a writer — I jot it down between the margins.

Divided times: how literature teaches us to understand ’the other’

Fiction teaches us to think creatively about difference. Anthropological studies, psychoanalysis, sociology – all offer theoretical descriptions for what a novel teaches by example and by identification. “The imitation of an action”, is what Aristotle called tragedy. It would be difficult for one to think up a more groundbreaking mode of understanding the mind and the heart. Guilt, jealousy, despair, violence, anxiety, irrationality, the fear of death – nothing that is human is foreign to literature.

It’s not your grandma’s Book of the Month Club

I rejoined Book of the Month last summer when I discovered how much it has changed since I last joined back in the early 1970s.

10 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT HOW THE NY TIMES BOOK REVIEW WORKS

Since I rely a lot on the New York Times Book Review, this article caught my eye. Here are the two tidbits I found most informative:

  1. “The Book Review at The Times reviews about 1% of the books that come out in any given year.”
  2. The best book reviews are emotional.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown