“Lisa Yaszek on the Feminist History of Science Fiction”
Since I started exploring Life Stories in Literature in the last few years, I’ve read more science fiction than I had read in my entire life before. Indeed, science fiction the ability to explore other possible lives, other possible worlds where new types of identities can flourish. Lisa Yaszek is professor of science fiction in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech. In this excerpt from her book The Future Is Female! More Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women (2022), she considers how, beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, women writers became politically more active, “using their art to demonstrate the limits of patriarchal culture and articulate the possibility of more egalitarian alternatives for all.”
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the season’s “best books of the year” lists, here’s a change of pace for you. Chris Gaudio offers “a list of older books that, while published years ago, still have the capacity to move readers, be it on a reread or the first time around.”
“A century after the trial against ‘Ulysses’, we must revisit the civil liberties arguments of its defender, Morris Ernst”
The fact that Ulysses was still banned in the US a full decade after its publication struck denizens of the literary world as absurd. Malcolm Cowley, editor of The New Republic, captured the exasperation when he wrote that ‘James Joyce’s position in literature is almost as important as that of Einstein in science. Preventing American authors from reading him is about as stupid as it would be to place an embargo on the theory of relativity.’ But freeing Joyce’s masterwork from the clutches of the censors would require prodigious effort, legal aplomb, and federal judges willing to hear the book’s defenders.
Read about the lawyers who dared to challenge obscenity laws in the U.S., including the Comstock Act of 1873. Such laws governed not only the question of obscenity in literature, but also “forbade the distribution of sex-education materials, marital advice manuals and virtually anything having to do with contraception, including birth-control techniques and devices.”
My favorite mystery/crime books focus on the grittier side of human existence. If you favor more cozy fare (even if just for the holidays), this list is for you.
“From Agatha Christie to Richard Osman, playful, quirky mysteries are particularly appealing at this time of year”
“Literary murder – especially the cosy sort – has always been comic. The real mystery is: why is it so popular now?” writes Oskar Jensen in The Guardian.
Games, puzzles and mysteries are by definition playful. And it’s not just the sleuths who are playing. Reader is always pitted against author in a test of wits – can we solve the crime before the detective? Like every game, there are clear rules: detective author Ronald Knox set out his not entirely serious 10 commandments of fair play in 1929. This is what makes these stories such perfect escapism today: readers can lose themselves in the contest. Every true whodunnit is a work of metafiction, as the reader flits in and out of the story, constantly trying to estimate the author’s intelligence or honesty in setting trails and leaving clues.
“Ring in the new year with Nick and Nora, Norma Desmond, and Fredo Corleone.”
Thank you, Crime Reads.
It’s a familiar narrative conceit. Storytellers of all kinds narrate events in nonlinear sequences, either for effect, to enhance the drama, or because they forgot some key detail and want to fill in the gaps. Even so, the jump cuts are disorienting. Because we live our lives chronologically, making sense of big leaps in a narrative sequence entails heftier mental work: Research shows our reaction times and reading pace slow and we have a harder time accessing memories related to events when they are presented to us out of order. So how do our brains actually process these narrative hops in chronology?
Science writer Ajdina Halilovic discusses recent psychological research that indicates our brains are always working in the background, unconsciously, to put events jumbled in time into chronological order.
Two professors from Monash University in Australia suggest “five novels by writers from Italy, Japan, Israel, New Zealand and Finland” to broaden our reading horizons.
This is the 19th year that The Millions has produced its Year in Reading series.
YIR gathers together some of today’s most exciting writers, thinkers, and tastemakers to share the books that shaped their year. What makes the series special is that it celebrates the subjectivity of reading: where yearend best-of lists pass off their value judgement as definitive, YIR essayists take a more phenomenological tact, focusing instead on capturing the experience of the books they read. . . . This, of course, makes for great, probing essays—in writing about our reading lives, we inevitably write about our inner lives.
The page linked here is the landing page for the entire series. I like to bookmark the annual list so that I can dip into the essays throughout the year.
© 2023 by Mary Daniels Brown