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Literary Links

The lofty goals and short life of the antiracist book club

“After George Floyd’s death, many white Americans formed book clubs. A year later, they’re wondering, ‘What now?’”

Today, just a few of the antiracist book clubs formed during the height of protests soldier on. They’re taking their time to learn how America got this way — and why violent, racist terror persists — but are at a loss for how to incite change. Amid a backdrop of debate over critical race theory and Republicans’ attempts to ban antiracist teachings and trainings, they want to acknowledge and reckon with America’s racism, but they’re stuck under the weight of all the history they never learned.

How Should One Read a Book?

“To read a book well, one should read it as if one were writing it”

Advice on reading from none other than Virginia Woolf:

if we remember, as we turn to the bookcase, that each of these books was written by a pen which, consciously or unconsciously, tried to trace out a design, avoiding this, accepting that, adventuring the other; if we try to follow the writer in his experiment from the first word to the last, without imposing our design upon him, then we shall have a good chance of getting hold of the right end of the string.

How books shaped The Beatles

James Hall discusses Paul McCartney’s new book The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present.

Perhaps McCartney’s reputation as the affable Beatle, always first with a smile and a cheeky quip, detracted from his scholarly leanings. But his knowledge of literature, plays and poems leaps from The Lyrics’ pages. He talks of Dylan Thomas, Oscar Wilde and Allen Ginsberg, of French symbolist writer Alfred Jarry, Eugene O’Neill and Henrik Ibsen. His lyrics are peppered with links and allusions that revel in wordplay and homage.

Words With Friends: On the Joys of Tandem Reading

According to Emma Specter, “There is something better than reading alone, I’ve discovered, and it’s reading side by side with friends who don’t judge you for wanting to hit ‘pause’ on socialization and disappear into a book.”


“The Department of Justice’s attempt to halt Penguin Random House’s acquisition of Simon & Schuster finds support within an industry already burned by bad trends. ‘Obviously every agent is thrilled that the wheels might be grinding to a halt on this,’ one insider says.”

Joe Pompeo reports in Vanity Fair on the attempt to prevent Penguin Random House from acquiring Simon & Schuster. “As for the general reaction among publishing insiders, the sense I get is that a lot of them—perhaps with the exception of executives at PRH and S&S—think DOJ [the U.S. Department of Justice] is doing the right thing.”

Language Is the Scaffold of the Mind

Anna Ivanova, a Ph.D. student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writes:

what can we say about the role language plays in shaping our minds? Well, pick a mind that is still developing, and you will find that removing language will alter it for life. However, pick a mind that is fully formed and take all words away, and you will discover that the rest of cognition remains mostly intact. Our language is but a scaffold for our minds: indispensable during construction but not necessary for the building to remain in place.

Bans on Critical Race Theory Threaten Free Speech, Advocacy Group Says

Attempts to ban critical race theory from discussion in public schools threaten “the free speech guaranteed in the First Amendment,” according to a recent report by “the free expression group PEN America.”

“Write a Sentence as Clean as a Bone” And Other Advice from James Baldwin

This article, from 2018, is appropriate for NaNoWriMo. Emily Temple collects some of James Baldwin’s messages about the craft of writing, including “Write to find out” and “Read as much as you can.”

How poetry casts a spell through the rhythmic magic of metre

Poet and performer Annie Finch writes, “I’ve noticed that poems make the rounds to wide audiences at difficult times – a dismaying election, or after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. So it is natural to wonder why poetry matters so much to people at powerful moments in our lives. What does it provide that nothing else can?”

Hollywood Loves Books

Kate Dwyer reports “Every year, the streaming industry becomes even hungrier for intellectual property to adapt.” And more and more, she writes, “producers look to celebrity book clubs to help figure out which titles could become blockbuster streaming hits.” 

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

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