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Literary Links

The Dinner Party That Started the Harlem Renaissance

“A century ago, a dinner party in New York set in motion one of the most influential cultural movements of the 20th century.”

Staff members of The New York Times have “explored archival material and have reconstructed much of” what happened on March 21, 1924, at a dinner initially intended to honor the publication of There Is Confusion, the debut novel by Jessie Fauset. But “two Black academic titans,” Charles S. Johnson and Alain Locke, wondered what would happen if they invited “African American talent and white purveyors of culture.” The result was “an interracial soirée that included intellectual and artistic luminaries” and that produced the Harlem Renaissance.

Percival Everett’s New Novel Is Destined to Become a Modern Classic

Percival Everett’s recent novel James is a retelling of the story within The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. “Blasted clean of Twain’s characterization, Jim emerges here as a man of great dignity, altruism, and intelligence,” writes Adrienne Westenfeld. “Along the way, Everett fills in the blank spaces of plot and characterization left by Twain, as Jim imagines verbal sparring matches with dead philosophers, falls in love with reading, and begins to author his own story.”

Read Westenfeld’s interview with Everett in Esquire.

Romance Finely Aged: On the Unique Dynamic of Older Couples

Having introduced the discussion of love between older adults with a look at Elizabeth Strout’s novel Olive Kitteridge, Carys Davies writes, “what interests me most is fiction that crackles with the jeopardy of two people who have less time in front of them than they have behind them.”

There Is No Point in My Being Other Than Honest with You: On Toni Morrison’s Rejection Letters

For Los Angeles Review of Books, Melina Moe takes a look at some of the rejection letters Toni Morrison wrote during 16 years at Random House. Most of the letters, which now are stored in the Random House Archives at the Columbia University library, date from the 1970s, a period during which the publishing industry underwent significant changes that produced more emphasis on economic rather than literary concerns.

“Morrison’s rejections tend to be long, generous in their suggestions, and direct in their criticism,” Moe writes. “Often, she supplements her rejections with diagnoses of an ailing publishing business, growing frustrations with unimaginative taste, the industry’s aversion to risk-taking, and her own sense of creative constraint working at a commercial press.”

America’s Great Poet of Darkness

“A reconsideration of Robert Frost at 150.”

Ed Simon underscores the need to set the record straight on Robert Frost, America’s beloved poet and author of perhaps “the most famous three lines in American poetry”: ““Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.’”

Simon emphasizes the interpretation of “The Road Not Taken” that David Orr explains in his book The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong:

As Orr . . . explains, “The Road Not Taken” has nothing to do with inspiration and stick-to-it-iveness; rather it’s a melancholic exhalation at the futility of choice, a dirge about enduring in the face of meaninglessness. If you read Frost for the snow, but don’t feel the cold, then you’re not really reading Frost. Furthermore, I’d argue that Frost’s vision isn’t just contrary to the popular misconception of him, but that as an American poet he deserves to be categorized as among those with the darkest of visions. . .

Stephen King’s First Book Is 50 Years Old, and Still Horrifyingly Relevant

Margaret Atwood explains readers’ continuing fascination with Carrie, Stephen King’s first published novel: “It’s one of those books that manage to dip into the collective unconscious of their own age and society.”

But underneath the “horror,” in King, is always the real horror: the all-too-actual poverty and neglect and hunger and abuse that exists in America today. . . . The ultimate horror, for him as it was for Dickens, is human cruelty, and especially cruelty to children.

Once Upon a Time, the World of Picture Books Came to Life

“The tale behind a new museum of children’s literature is equal parts imagination, chutzpah and ‘The Little Engine That Could.’”

A description—with lots of photographs—of “the Rabbit Hole, a brand-new, decade-in-the-making museum of children’s literature founded by the only people with the stamina for such a feat: former bookstore owners.” The museum, in North Kansas City, Missouri, opened on March 16, 2024.

“The main floor of the Rabbit Hole consists of 40 book-themed dioramas blown up to life-size and arranged, Ikea showroom-style, in a space the size of two hockey rinks.” The settings are inspired by well-known children’s books, including Goodnight Moon, Blueberries for Sal, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and Frog and Toad

Do take a look at the photos to see how all the owners’ love and hard work has paid off in creating this experiential learning center for children and their families.

© 2024 by Mary Daniels Brown

2 thoughts on “Literary Links”

  1. I found the article about Toni Morrison’s rejection letters as an editor particularly interesting, as well as her assessment of the direction the publishing industry was headed in the 1970s and early 1980s.

    1. Mary Daniels Brown

      I did too, Liz. In addition to what we can infer about where publishing was going, I also especially liked the way she tried to be tactful and supportive toward people whose work she was rejecting. We need more such civility in the world today.

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