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Too Enjoyable to Be Literature

What a wonderful short piece! It’s only four paragraphs long (one of which is a block quotation), but it so aptly expresses a reader’s joy of recognizing and appreciating a literary work. 

That literary work is Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. And Helen Garner has the same edition that I had in college back in the late 1960s.

Against Disruption: On the Bulletpointization of Books

“Maris Kreizman Wonders Why Tech Bros Think They Can “Save” Something They Don’t Even Like?”

“In a world where tech billionaires dominate so much of our culture,” Maris Kreizman deplores book lists that focus on information transmission rather than “more philosophical questions: What are books? What purpose do they serve?”:

It seems to me that there is a fundamental discrepancy between the way readers interact with books and the way the hack-your-brain tech community does. A wide swath of the ruling class sees books as data-intake vehicles for optimizing knowledge rather than, you know, things to intellectually engage with.

He Polarized Readers by Writing About His Late Wife’s Affairs. Now He’s Ready to Move On

Molly, Blake Butler’s memoir about his late wife, has ignited intense online debates around authorial responsibility, but as his book tour draws to a close, Butler has found himself exhausted. ‘I’m trying to both take care of myself and take care of the book. I want this to be the end,’ he tells Vanity Fair.”

I hadn’t heard of this author or his book before reading this article. I haven’t read Molly and, unfortunately, don’t anticipate having the time to read it in the near future. But the discussion here raises a lot of questions about personal writing such as memoir:

  • Whose story is this?
  • Whose has the right to tell this story?
  • Is it responsible to tell a story about someone no longer here to refute or otherwise respond to it?
  • Where does art end and gossip begin?

A basic tenet of memoir writing is “You have the right to tell your own story, and people who disagree with it have the right to tell their version.” But the Molly of Butler’s story is no longer alive. 

When, and if, I do read this book, I’d look closely at its emphasis. Does Butler focus on his own story of reacting to his wife’s suicide and the later discoveries about her life? Or does the book cross some moral or aesthetic line into what one novelist quoted here calls “literary revenge porn”?

“Lives Of The Wives” Books Won’t Save Us

“The subgenre promises to do good by training the spotlight on long-overshadowed women. Is it really that simple?”

Erin Somers examines books, both fiction and nonfiction, that center the often neglected wives of famous men:

. . . books about wives remain so common that they have become a bookstore cliche. Their covers often show faceless women, headless women, women from behind. “Who is she?” they seem to want you to ask, maybe while mentally grafting your own head onto the pictures. What can we make of this genre that positions women at the center while also stressing their domestic subservience to men? What is the point of these books, and why do we keep making it?

Fictionalizing Real Trauma as a Means of Healing

“The psychic burden would’ve been too great if I’d written the story as memoir.”

When she was 19, Chris Cander spent a summer semester abroad, in Madrid. One night she made the mistake of her life: She got into a car with a strange man who drove her away from the city, then stopped the car, pulled out a knife that he held to her throat, and described how he was going to kill her. She fought back and managed to escape. When she got back home, she pushed the memory of that night “in the recesses of my mind and did my best to forget about it.”

And that’s where the memory stayed until Cander’s own daughter was 19. But “something as traumatic as that doesn’t just magically disappear. It’s the kind of story that lives deep inside your bones.” When the suppressed memory “returned and refused to be ignored,” Cander decided to deal with it “in the most therapeutic way I know: by fictionalizing it.” Transferring the traumatic experience to a fictional character gave Cander the emotional distance from the event that she needed to process it.

Texas Spurs Interest in Spanish-Language Women Writers

“The state is home to to the U.S.’s top podcast focusing on Hispanophone women writers and the only PhD in creative writing in Spanish in the country”

Publishers Weekly reports on a program started in Texas to promote the work of Spanish-language women writers.

Around the World in Eighty Lies

“How a writer fabricated a series of stories for Atlas Obscura

Michelle Cyca reports how a writer managed to fabricate several pieces for the online publication Atlas Obscura. “Mastbaum’s fabrications were convincing for the same reason any fakery is: burnished with captivating details and memorable quotes, they were almost better than real.”

Fictional Formulations and The Paperback Psychologist

Clinical psychologist Stuart Cooney discusses how reading fiction can help us better understand the human experience: “the best books are the ones that transport us away, that steep us in the imagery and story, and most importantly, connect with us emotionally. . . . When we read books, we view the black ink on the page and conjure up incredible images in our mind.  We don’t just observe these images however, we inhabit and explore them as they wash over us, with the imagery activating and stimulating our minds and bodies.”

© 2024 by Mary Daniels Brown

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