Last Week's Links

Literary Links

Thermo Fisher Scientific settles with family of Henrietta Lacks, whose HeLa cells uphold medicine

Social justice achieved by a book! See The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

Categories: Author News

New England Noir: A Brief, Idiosyncratic History of a Literary Region

The region is known for its literary output: six states, a few hundred years of history, and a disproportionate number of American classics. But it’s not immediately the place that comes to mind when you think about “noir.” . . . But almost from the beginning, New England and noir have been bound together in a dark, elegant dance. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables (1851) was there to kickstart the American gothic tradition; later, Edith Wharton added her own tragic notes in Ethan Frome (1911).

And then, of course, there’s The Curse of the Bambino.

Categories: Literary Criticism, Literary History

The Rise of Tech Worker Fiction

“Novels about Big Tech’s working class are popping up like push notifications. What can they tell us about the labor movement and late-stage capitalism?”

These novels, writes Rebecca Ackermann in Esquire

detail the personal crises of individuals clinging to paychecks and praise from their employers while struggling to square the promise of their work with the nagging truth of it. These stories, while fictional, ask a very real question about technology and labor today, against a backdrop of economic precarity and social isolation: how many of our values can we sacrifice for a shot at a secure life? In these novels, the conclusion is dramatically clear: to escape their untenable binds, protagonists launch themselves out of the industry, into parenthood, and across alternate dimensions.

Categories: Fiction, Literature & Culture

We Have Reached Peak “Therapy TV”

Three critics discuss the changing role of the therapist on television, from “Frasier” and “The Sopranos” to “Shrinking” and “Couples Therapy.”

Our era of Peak TV has brought us Peak Therapy on TV. And in the backdrop of this boom is, of course, the destigmatization of mental illness in the broader culture, as well as the rise of “therapy-speak” in everyday conversation and diagnoses-as-identities on social media. What does TV today get wrong—or right—about therapy? Is there something intrinsic to the episodic nature of TV that lends itself to depicting the therapeutic process? Which skeevy tropes, such as the ubiquitous Black woman therapist, should we be on the lookout for? And is the true goal of these shows to do therapy on the viewer? Two fellow-critics and I tried to get to the bottom of these questions.

Category: Literature & Culture, Literature & Psychology, Television

How an untested, cash-strapped TV show about books became an American classic

The Los Angeles Times summarizes how Reading Rainbow, built around the idea that it should “encourage early readers to read to learn instead of simply learning to read,” has endured for 40 years.

Categories: Reading, Television

The Last Good Day of the Bookish Internet

Danika Ellis of BookRiot laments the day Google Reader died:

We could have had a decentralized internet, a network of content creators who didn’t have to rely on a few corporations for their audience. You could have had control over exactly what content you wanted to see more of, instead of surrendering to the algorithm. We didn’t know how good we had it, on the last good day of the bookish internet.

I also appreciate what she has to say about book blogs:

Where in the 2010s, book blogs were a sprawling playground of ideas, each with their own style and focus, they’re now harder to find and less well-known. Those niche book blogs are hardly talked about anymore, even in bookish circles online. 

Those were the days, my friend.

Categories: Book News, Reading

The Best 20th-Century American Novels

The story of America is not one of a manageable unified nation, says novelist and critic David Hering. It may, however, be the story of America’s dream — which is why many of the best American novels have a distinctly dreamlike quality. He picks out five of the best American novels of the 20th century, from 1905 through to 1987.

Categories: Fiction, Literary Criticism, Literary History, Literature & Culture

Why adults should read children’s books

A history of, and praise for, children’s fiction.

Categories: Fiction, Literary Criticism, Literary History, Literature & Culture

Married to the mob: the rise of the smartphone in fiction

Paula Cocozza, author of the novel Speak to Me, writes:

Telephones, of the kind we all keep handy, are so much a part of daily life we touch them as often as our faces. But phones in fiction require a sleight of hand: if characters use them as realism dictates, they will feel as interruptive on the page as they do at the dinner table. How can authors navigate this challenge?

Categories: Author News, Writing

The Wrath of Goodreads

“Authors are at the mercy of people who don’t bother reading their work.”

Helen Lewis, a staff writer at The Atlantic, takes issue with all those readers who offer on Goodreads one-star reviews of books they haven’t read.

Categories: Literary Criticism, Reading, Writing

© 2023 by Mary Daniels Brown

3 thoughts on “Literary Links”

  1. I just read The Atlantic article. I think a big part of the problem is the publishing industry’s and self-publisher reliance on the same rating system that is used to sell a set of socket wrenches or a toaster. If these trolls had to write a 500-word critical analysis of their reading experience and then submit it to a publication for it to reach an audience, their “reviews” would never see the light of day.

    1. Mary Daniels Brown

      I totally agree, Liz. That’s why I much prefer reading book blogs to reading reviews on Goodreads (which I seldom do). I love your comparison: there’s really no comparison between books and socket wrenches or toasters!

      1. Thank you, Mary! That star rating system has led to so many abuses. Whatever happened to reading a book review and determining whether you would like to read the book based on how well the reviewer’s analysis aligned with your own preferences and criteria for a good reading experience? I still have a folder (somewhere) of book reviews clipped from newspapers.

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