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An Innocent Abroad: Joan Didion’s Midlife Crisis Novelist, short story writer, critic and retired English professor Scott Bradfield grew up in California but had difficulty “[l]earning how to write fictions set in California”: California is filled with so many vivid pleasures, smells, textures, and absurdities of human character that it feels difficult, or even impossible, …

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feature: Life Stories in Literature

Quotation: “characters come to tell me their backstory”

“When I embark on a writing project, my characters come to tell me their backstory. Very little of it—perhaps none—might be referred to in the final draft, but it’s there nonetheless, hiding in the decisions that each character makes, driving their reaction to every event. They tell me, these characters, of past incidents, big and …

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stack of books and open notebook. Label: Quotation

Quotation: Pat Barker on “The Silence of the Girls”

Pat Barker on Briseis, the main character of the novel The Silence of the Girls, based on the women from Homer’s Iliad: “You can sometimes struggle for months to get the voice of a new character, but Briseis’s voice was there from the beginning, as if she was impatient to make herself heard. If I …

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Censorship on the Rise Worldwide A report from Publishers Weekly: “Since the start of the Covid pandemic, there’s been a rise in instances of government censorship of books around the world.” 3 Things to Know About the Ending of a Story I see a lot of discussion in literature-related posts about fictional introductions, but not …

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A Reading List for Women in Translation Month 2021 Women in Translation Month is celebrated every August. Here are quite a few reading suggestions from independent literary presses and magazines. Women are leading the new Latin American literature boom Appropriate for Women in Translation Month, here’s a short article about how women are leading the …

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Oral History Through the Ages Oral history is older than written history. Homer’s early epics the Iliad and the Odyssey were transmitted orally long before they were written down. Here Sarah Rahman describes how oral history has progressed into the present. For centuries the important stories of marginalized peoples have been transmitted orally in the …

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What Our Biggest Best-Sellers Tell Us About a Nation’s Soul “Reading America through more than two centuries of its favorite books.” In The New Yorker, Louis Menand takes on Jess McHugh’s book Americanon, which discusses “thirteen American books, from ‘The Old Farmer’s Almanac,’ first published in 1792, to Stephen R. Covey’s ‘The 7 Habits of …

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The 2021 Pride Reading List: 75 New Books to Read Now I’m leading with this list because June is Pride month “in honor of the LGBTQ+ community.” Greenwood author’s first-person history of 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre published 100 years later The 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre rightly generated a lot of press coverage. …

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Hard Times: Mental Health Books 2021 From Publishers Weekly: The tumult of the past 15 months has exacerbated common mental health concerns, among them trauma, anxiety, grief, and isolation. PW spoke with authors and editors about the emotional scars of the pandemic, and how their forthcoming books offer empathy, community, and guidance. Unforgettable reads focusing …

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Three New Books Find Drama in the Scandals and Controversies of the Publishing World These stories about concerns over the publishing industry aren’t going away any time soon—nor should they: “the business of books has increasingly become a hothouse, generating controversies, Twitter feuds and scrambles to save face as existing power structures are challenged.” Here …

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