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Literary Links

Betty Smith enchanted a generation of readers with ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’ − even as she groused that she hoped Williamsburg would be flattened

Rachel Gordan, assistant professor of religion and Jewish studies at the University of Florida, discloses that Betty Smith herself had a different experience of life in Brooklyn than does the protagonist of her famous novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Smith wrote the novel while living in Chapel Hill, North  Carolina, many years after leaving Brooklyn. “Although writing about Brooklyn had brought her fortune and fame, she had no desire to return.”

Chinese Science Fiction Before The Three Body Problem

“Viewing the genre as a means to spread modern knowledge, Chinese novelists have been writing science-fiction stories since at least 1902.”

In her closing paragraph, writer Livia Gershon alludes to the recent controversy surrounding eligibility for the 2023 Hugo Awards:

Today, the Chinese government’s relationship with science fiction remains complicated. After the Hugo awards were held in the country for the first time in 2023, documents revealed that some writers critical of China’s ruling party appear to have been improperly excluded from the award ballots.

Inside the Royal Society of Literature’s civil war

“Amid allegations of censorship, secrecy and elitism, the 300-year-old institution is tearing itself apart.”

In another example of controversy in the international literary community, Ellen Peirson-Hagger, assistant culture editor at Britain’s New Statesman, reports on disagreement between the directorate (made up of paid staff members who are not necessarily writers) and members of the Royal Society of Literature. “The RSL was founded in 1820, with the patronage of George IV, to ‘reward literary merit and excite literary talent.’” 

The major objections involve questions about opening up membership “to better represent the diversity of the UK’s best writers” and about “the literary world’s most problematic issue: censorship.”

Kathryn Scanlan: Gordon Burn prize winner on pushing the boundaries of fiction

Alice Kemp-Habib discusses the work of Kathryn Scanlan, who combines bits of text from various sources with imaginative writing to produce short books that 

“trouble the boundary between novel and nonfiction . . . deploying artistic licence here and there to create something almost true.”

What Writers Can Learn From Adapting Their Own Work for the Screen

Writer Sarah Tomlinson interviewed several authors about their experiences working on screen adaptations on their books: “The experience of writing across different mediums has clearly given these scribes greater confidence in their ability to serve the stories they most want to tell.”

Because most readers eagerly watch film or television versions of their favorite novels, I was interested in what Tomlinson has to say about the differences inherent in written and visual media: “one of the major questions that accompanies every adaptation is how much the filmed version will depart from the original material.” For example, a novelist can take as many pages as necessary to examine a character’s thoughts, but how does such interiority translate to film? Or, in some cases the actors in an adaptation may want more information about a character to enrich their performance, but a novel may not contain those backstories. And often novelists “have to trade their essentially infinite page count to master film and TV writing” in terms of both cost and time constraints.

There’s a lot of good information here for book bloggers who write about film or TV adaptations of books.

Behind the design: A deep dive into Aptos

Readers interested in book covers are also often interested in typography. If you’re one of those readers, here’s a discussion from Microsoft about its development of Aptos, its new default font. 

Read if you’d like to know how “this humanist typeface disguised as a grotesque font capture[s] the essence of our customers.”

Use This Simple Technique to Get More Out of Every Book You Read

I’ve found that taking notes while reading helps me remember more of what I read, whether fiction or nonfiction. In this piece Bobby Powers illustrates the note-taking method he uses to annotate books. Although his illustrations focus on nonfiction books, a similar system could also be used for fiction.

Arthur Miller Explains Death of a Salesman

One of my most outstanding literary-related memories is seeing Brian Dennehy (1938-2020) as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. That would have been sometime in the early 2000s. Dennehy won a Tony Award for Best Lead Actor in a Play for that role on Broadway in 1999; I saw the production when its tour came through St. Louis, MO.

That’s why this article in The Atlantic caught my eye. Death of a Salesman opened on February 10, 1949; Miller wrote this letter about its origin in October of the same year.

© 2024 by Mary Daniels Brown

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