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Literary Links

A Veteran of the Book-Banning Wars on the Importance of Speaking Out

Claudia Johnson is a nationally recognized advocate for free speech, author of Stifled Laughter: One Woman’s Story About Fighting Censorship—nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1994—and winner of the inaugural PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award for her “extraordinary efforts to restore banned literary classics to Florida classrooms.” Fulcrum Publishing has just released a new edition of Stifled Laughter because, the publisher says, “the book is even more relevant today” and they “want to introduce the book to a new generation of readers.”

Claudia Johnson and her son Ross have “witnessed the profound difference it makes when we show up and speak out—and when we don’t.”

Categories: Censorship, Reading

How Beyond Black shone a light on Hilary Mantel’s most personal preoccupations

“A ghost story, a condition-of-England novel and a meditation on the power of memory, Hilary Mantel’s funniest work of fiction is as revealing as a memoir”

John Self discusses Beyond Black, an early novel by Hilary Mantel, who would later “become a Booker legend, one of a select bunch of authors to win the prize twice, for Wolf Hall (2009) and Bring up the Bodies (2012).” The article contains links to several related pieces about the author and her works.

Categories: Author News, Awards & Prizes, Literary Criticism, Literary History 

Libraries Need More Freedom to Distribute Digital Books

This is a complex and controversial issue. Here Dan Cohen, Vice Provost for Information Collaboration, Dean of the Library, and Professor of History at Northeastern University, argues his side.

Categories: Libraries, Reading

How’s the Writing Going, Deesha Philyaw?

DEESHA PHILYAW’s debut short story collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, won the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the 2020/2021 Story Prize, the 2020 LA Times Book Prize, and the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. The collection was also a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. The Secret Lives of Church Ladies focuses on Black women, sex, and the Black church and is being adapted for television by HBO Max with Tessa Thompson executive producing. Deesha is a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow and will be the 2022–2023 John and Renée Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi.

Memoirist and essayist Sari Botton here interviews Deesha Philyaw “about interrogating writer’s block, working on multiple projects at the same time, and how character can drive plot.”

Categories: Author News, Writing

‘It’s so much worse’: Children’s author Judy Blume condemns books censorship in the US

Judy Blume talks with Laura Kuenssberg of the BBC about the experience of having her novel Forever banned by a school district in Florida. 

“Blume believes the problem is worsening ‘because it’s become political.’”

Categories: Author News, Censorship

ALA Fight Censorship Resources Page

Because right-wing censorship has exploded across the U.S., the American Library Association offers an array of information and resources.

Categories: Censorship, Reading

Women now dominate the book business. Why there and not other creative industries?

[There has been] a sea change in book publishing that has seen women surge ahead of men in almost every part of the industry in recent years. Once upon a time, women authored less than 10 percent of the new books published in the US each year. They now publish more than 50 percent of them. Not only that, the average female author sells more books than the average male author. In all this, the book market is an outlier when compared to many other creative realms, which continue to be overwhelmingly dominated by men.

Greg Rosalsky considers this conundrum from an economic perspective.

Categories: Publishing, Writing

10 Time-Tested Books That Deserve New Release Attention

I admit it: I often collect new, highly hyped books that then sit on a shelf, sometimes for years, before I get around to reading them. Sara Roncero-Menendez apparently has the same problem, which is why she has created this list of books “that deserve all the same glory and attention as a new release.”

Surprisingly, none of these books are currently on my TBR shelves.

Categories: Book Recommendations, Reading

When Medusa Meets #METOO

Classicist Valeria Spacciante examines the appropriateness—and appropriation—of a statue unveiled in 2020 in front of the New York Criminal Court in Manhattan.

What Garbati’s Medusa shows us is that to talk about social justice when appropriating someone else’s story, even when the story in question is a millennia-old myth, serves to perpetuate such injustice.”

In this context, Spacciante considers Natalie Haynes’s novel Stone Blind: Medusa’s Story, published in 2022: “Haynes’s retelling pursues feminist aims, but, ultimately, it amounts to a tale of disempowerment.”

One aspect of Life Stories in Literature is the attempt to give voice to people and groups whose voices have historically been marginalized and silenced. Since mythologies are cultural constructs developed to record and transmit the values of particular cultures, mythological characters are a group that has been ripe for recent reconsideration (e.g., Circe by Madeline Miller and The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker). Medusa of Greek mythology now gets her re-examination.

Categories: Life Stories in Literature, Literature & Culture

© 2023 by Mary Daniels Brown

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