Last Week's Links

Literary Links

You May Be Surprised by What Scares You

“Fear may be a linchpin of horror, but as a recent anthology attests, the true bedrock of the genre is mood.”

Stephen Kearse writes, “even in my favorite works of the genre, horror scenarios generally intrigue rather than scare me; I’m more likely to ponder than to scream. This is why I believe that the true bedrock of the genre is mood.”

For Black History Month, Kearse discusses the recent anthology Out There Screaming: An Anthology of New Black Horror co-edited by Jordan Peele and John Joseph Adams.

Defunding liberal arts is dangerous for health care

Budget-conscious institutions of higher education have been talking for years about defunding the humanities in order to better support STEM and other disciplines that lead directly to major job opportunities. However, these discussions have recently heated up considerably. Here, Holly J. Humphrey, M.D., a former medical school dean, argues that “the liberal arts are not only more relevant than ever; they are critical to the future of health and health care in America.”

YA Isn’t Just for Young Adults

I came of age long before the arrival of YA literature as a dedicated category, so I still don’t often think about books so designated. Writer Jiordan Castle writes that the prestige of YA literature has not kept pace with its commercial success:

“Don’t you want to write a real book?” This is a question that’s been posed to many of my YA author friends. It’s also a question—with its implication that real books are for adults—that betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what YA is and why it matters.

She writes, “The vast majority—78%—of YA buyers over 18 are specifically purchasing YA books with the intention of reading them themselves.”

The Case for Paper: Books vs. E-Readers

Research results from Psychology Today:

Holding the weight of a book in your hand, turning the pages, and even highlighting your favorite passages are all experienced in the body. . . . From the way you position your body when holding a book, to the way your head and eyes adjust to scan the pages as they turn, there are distinct differences in the way our bodies experience reading a good old-fashioned book.

Usually, I find that articles like this tend to over-simplify the differences between reading print books and ereaders. The findings here, about reading and retaining material from textbooks, ignore the easy portability of ereaders for pleasure reading. I see the whole question of print vs. ereader as a “sometimes one, sometimes the other” matter rather than an “either/or” issue.

Why Are We Talking About Books Like This?

“What the language we use says about our perception of reading.”

Molly Templeton laments the recent trend in publications like the Washington Post and the New York Times that treat reading as an elitist activity or a kind of home decor.

I want people to think less about being authoritative and more about being appreciative, emotional, engrossed, impassioned, full of questions, ready to be awed. It is pretty obvious that I love questions. (Cue Jodie Foster, in this season of True Detective: “Ask the question.”) But I also love answers. How can we talk about books in ways other than these? How can we change this bookish landscape for the better? 

END OF STORY: Controversial Author A.J. Finn Finally Set to Release His Second Novel

When I read that A.J. Finn was about to publish his second novel, I felt a bit queasy. Here’s Ryan Steck’s recap of the controversy over Finn’s first novel, The Woman in the Window. When I read that book, I was sure I had read the story before. But I’ve never been able to find any book I’d read previously that sounds similar.

Literary Works in Which Crimes Are a Means to Understanding Complexity

“Megan Nolan on the ‘apparent impossibility of comprehending the mind of another’”

Here are a couple of my beliefs about fiction:

  1. Fiction helps us better understand what it means to be human.
  2. My favorite types of novels to read are crime fiction and big, sprawling family sagas, especially big, sprawling family sagas that include a crime.

So I think I’ve found my reading twin in novelist Megan Nolan, author of Acts of Desperation and the recent Ordinary Human Failings. Here Nolan offers a list of five novels that “combine the best of crime writing with the most reflective and thoughtful expositions of family dynamics.”

I was especially pleased to see Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane, one of the best books I read in 2023, on the list.

Why Are Books Featuring Old Protagonists Trendy Right Now?

Writer Abby Corson looks at a recent trend in fiction: “aside from the classics, in recent years, we’ve seen a huge resurgence in books that feature older protagonists. What exactly is driving this resurgence, and why are readers so enthralled by it?”

Corson offers a couple of explanations:

  • “[B]ooks that feature older protagonists challenge the way we think and flip our expectations on their head.”
  • “Older people are like life’s underdogs, and everyone roots for them.”

But here’s another reason she has missed: Older people, like everyone else, appreciate seeing fictional characters like themselves. And older people, many of whom are retired, have the time to read. A lot.

© 2024 by Mary Daniels Brown

Discover more from Notes in the Margin

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top