Last Week's Links

Literary Links

‘God forbid that a dog should die’: when Goodreads reviews go bad

“I’m a professional critic, and an author of a literary novel. I’m a snob. I care about my book, and the authors I feel are my competitors,” writes Lauren Oyler. In this piece, another chapter in the continuous Goodreads controversy, she states that all the issues raised about the platform book lovers love to hate “make it seem like Goodreads is important. But is it?”

Michiko Kakutani Was the Most Feared Woman in Publishing. What Happened?

“The former New York Times book critic was known for her devastating pans. How did she get so bland?”

Not too long ago, I came across a piece somewhere on the internet by Michiko Kakutani, about whom I had heard almost nothing since she left the New York Times, and gave it a bit of a read. And couldn’t believe what I saw. The clichés. The unsupported generalities. The lack of style, the absence of flair. 

“Oh, how the mighty has fallen,” I thought as I closed that browser tab. For Slate, Don Kois writes a real article on the topic, complete with explanations, supporting evidence, and even a bit of flair.

Leslie Jamison on Self-Construction as a Literary Act

In this excerpt from a podcast, writer Leslie Jamison investigates the “question of self-construction on the page. Self-construction as a literary act.”

Does Literary Criticism Tell Truths About the World?

Having come from an academic literary background, I have a deep interest in how the discipline of literary criticism pertains to what goes on here in the world of reading in (for want of a better term) popular culture, including blogging. In this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, several academicians discuss the recent book Criticism and Truth by Jonathan Kramjnick, written at a time “when we bemoan the humanities’ crises in the post-Covid, STEM-dominant era.”

Much of the discussion focuses on literary criticism as a craft that aims to explain the kind of truth that literary works uniquely communicate. As one critic, Elisa Tamarkin of the University of California at Berkeley, says about “what it actually takes to write well about writing”:

the sort of knowledge, the sort of training, that it takes to write elegantly or dexterously about literature, to embed other words in our words. This requires not only learning a method of writing; it often requires a deep base or stock of knowledge, a resourcefulness about where to turn. Sometimes that stock of knowledge includes a great deal of linguistic knowledge; sometimes it includes literary-historical knowledge or historical knowledge; sometimes it includes knowledge from other kinds of disciplines. Something prepares us to be able to read well.

8 Great Novels that Mix Speculative Fiction and Noir

I love works of fiction that combine elements from multiple genres to achieve their aim. One such genre is noir, which features elements of corruption, darkness, and mystery. Here writer Lincoln Michel calls out novels that combine noir elements with science fiction and fantasy. 

John Plotz on Earthsea, Anarchism, and Ursula K. Le Guin

This article is a perfect follow-up to the previous one. John Plotz’s book Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea: My Reading (Oxford University Press, 2023) “[delves] into fantasy and science fiction.” In this conversation Plotz talks with Elizabeth Ferry about how Le Guin’s books changed his life because “she’s telling stories for adults and for children as well.”

Plotz bases the success of these stories on Le Guin’s concept of fantasy: “the thing about fantasy novels is that they completely know they’re made up, and they never tire of reminding you how invented they are.”

I spent a week using AI tools in my daily life. Here’s how it went.

Let me start by emphasizing that the “I” of this title is not me, Mary@NotesInTheMargin, but Cecily Mauran, tech reporter for Mashable. I, Mary@NotesInTheMargin, the former college composition instructor, will have absolutely nothing to do with AI writing tools (despite WordPress’s so kind inclusion of said tools in its dashboard to help me compose my blog posts).

But Cecily has a job to do, and I’m OK with letting her do it. I’ll let you read how she set up her experiment, how she carried it out, and what her conclusions are.

Using books as interior design? It’s a trend with a tale

“The appeal of bookshelf wealth and its ensuing outrage tells us something uncomfortable about our culture”

Eva Wiseman, columnist for The Guardian, tells us “‘Bookshelf wealth’ has been named 2024’s ‘first major design trend’ . . . In this context, books are valuable, but not for their ability to titillate, terrify, educate, no none of that – they are valuable for the way their presence communicates a particular kind of educated class.”

What Do Gardens and Murder Have in Common?

As writer and landscape historian Marta McDowell observes in her new book, Gardening Can Be Murder: How Poisonous Poppies, Sinister Shovels, and Grim Gardens Have Inspired Mystery Writers, gardens are popular settings in crime and detective stories, especially those published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The mysterious people that tend to them also feature commonly in these stories. Sometimes they’re the victims, sometimes the killers, sometimes the unlikely heroes who save the day. Gardens invariably lend setting, motivation, and symbolism.

This article is from JSTOR, “a digital library of academic journals, books, and other material. We publish articles grounded in peer-reviewed research and provide free access to that research for all of our readers.” The article includes links for free access to related materials. 

© 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