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Literary Links

An In-Depth Guide to Book Sizes

Every once in a while I come across a book that isn’t a standard size. That difference may not seem important, but it can make shelving the book difficult if you want to put it in with, say, other books by the same author.

Category: Publishing

People Are Sharing Books That Have Genuinely Changed Their Lives

I always enjoy seeing this list because you can never have too many book recommendations, right? 

This list apparently comes from Reddit. It includes both fiction and nonfiction

Categories: Book Recommendations, Reading

Our Brains Want the Story of the Pandemic to Be Something It Isn’t

A lot of us have continued to find it difficult to either shake off or come to some kind of understanding of the lengthy COVID-19 experience. I found this article interesting because it looks at the problem in terms of story, or finding a narrative that makes some sense of what we’re experiencing. In other words, we’re having trouble incorporating the pandemic into our life story.

Two years of living with the coronavirus has been spirit-depleting for obvious reasons, but this weariness has been compounded by the fact that the pandemic has defied our attempts to snap it into a satisfying story framework. . . . The coronavirus’s volatile arc has thwarted a basic human impulse to storify reality—instinctively, people tend to try to make sense of events in the world and in their lives by mapping them onto a narrative. If we struggle to do that, researchers who study the psychology of narratives told me, a number of unpleasant consequences might result: stress, anxiety, depression, a sense of fatalism, and, as one expert put it, “feeling kind of crummy.”

Category: Life Stories in Literature, Story

The Two Camps of Crime: Christie’s Cool, Cozy Tales of Ratiocination and Highsmith’s Psycho-Sexual Deep Waters

Mystery writer Wayne Johnson explains how “the entirety of crime writing [falls] into either of two camps, each evolving out of sources that, for the most part, don’t cross over.” The two different camps are evident in his examination of the works of Agatha Christie and Patricia Highsmith:

while Christie and Highsmith both provide pleasures, they do so in significantly different ways, and from different sources—let’s even say the two writers work out of radically different DNA, and writers as well as readers of crime fiction would best be aware of that fact.

Categories: Author News, Literary History, Literary Criticism, How Fiction Works, Literature & Psychology

Melissa Febos on the Value of Craft for Writing and Life

Amanda Montei describes the recently published book Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative by Melissa Febos:

Body Work . . . is an articulate call for understanding writing, especially autobiographical writing, as part of a larger liberatory politics, one that relies as much on deep personal introspection, as on collective and aesthetic engagement. For Febos, writing begins with waking up to the oppressive histories that inform our preconceptions of genre, aesthetic quality, creativity, and, perhaps most importantly, what kind of story is worth telling.

In this interview Montei and Febos discuss “representations of sex and trauma, and how teaching, writing, and the lifelong work of examining how powers structures live within our bodies, are all interconnected practices.”

Categories: Author News, Story, Writing, Life Stories in Literature

The Rich and Secret Life of a Writer of Reading Guides

Je Branch says she has had “an extremely strange and dreamy career moonlighting as the writer of more than one hundred publishers’ reading guides to works of world literature.” But, she explains, “unlike all of the other myriad forms and genres of writing—no one ever talks about reading guides.”

If you’ve ever come across a reading guide in the back of a book (in my experience, they tend to turn up in trade paperbacks that have been printed with book-club consumption in mind), this is the kind of work she’s talking about. Branch says that these guides generally consist of a short biography of the books’s author, an introduction to the book, and lists of discussion topics and questions. The discussion topics and questions are meant to start conversations, not to provide answers on how to interpret the book.

Categories: Literary Criticism, Writing

Kerouac at 100

“He led readers to bohemian rhapsodies, then Buddhism”

Randy Rosenthal celebrates the life and work of Jack Kerouac, who was born 100 years ago this month:

I’ll venture to say that out of all 20th-century American writers, he was among the most influential. His two most popular novels—On the Road and The Dharma Bums—showed people they could live a completely different way of life: a bohemian existence at odds with postwar American consumerism. Both books are about freedom. Both depict a way of living free from 20-year mortgages, nine-to-five jobs, conventional relationships, and family responsibilities. They present the liberating idea that you can do whatever you want with your life—what you want to do, not just what you are supposed to do. For many readers, this insight was profound.

Categories: Author News, Literary History, Literary Criticism

© 2022 by Mary Daniels Brown

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