Just a few more days until the election. We can do it.
In the meantime, here is the best the internet has to offer on books and related subjects for the week of October 31, 2016.
- Beloved childrenâ€™s author Natalie Babbitt, who wrote Tuck Everlasting, died this week. She was 84.
- Earlier this week we talked about Tam Lin and Diana Wynne Jonesâ€™s Fire and Hemlock. I will admit here, in this safe space, that I have never really understood the ending of Fire and Hemlock (yes, I know that book is meant for children, but man, it is abstract). If you are in the same boat, you might enjoy this two-part essay that very productively close-reads the ending. Hereâ€™s part one, and hereâ€™s part two:
Now, it is a principle throughout the Four Quartets that the ending is contained in the beginning. The exact phrase, ‘In my beginning is my end’, occurs at least twice outright and in variations several other times; the inversion, ‘In my end is my beginning’, also occurs. This is absolutely true of Fire and Hemlock. All the elements of the ending are laid out very neatly quite close to the beginning.
- Zadie Smithâ€™s new book Swing Time comes out on Election Day, so youâ€™ll have something to look forward to besides the end of this godforsaken eternal election cycle. Swing Time has a lot in it about dance, so to prepare, read Smithâ€™s Guardian piece on how dance is like writing:
What can an art of words take from the art that needs none? Yet I often think Iâ€™ve learned as much from watching dancers as I have from reading. Dance lessons for writers: lessons of position, attitude, rhythm and style, some of them obvious, some indirect.
- Emma Watson is scattering free books around the London Underground. There are lots of programs that do this kind of work around the world if you would like to do the same; I personally am partial to BookCrossing, which has the mission of turning the entire world into a library.
- Rebecca Solnit, the author of Men Explain Things to Me, tells us why New York City is a book you should read:
New York may be a book you havenâ€™t read, but it is rich in Talmudic scholars of the everyday who read it as carefully as any sacred text.
- In the New Republic, Alexander Chee writes against Elena Ferranteâ€™s unmasking:
As a reader, I never once grudged Ferrante her spaceâ€”perhaps because, as a writer, I understood it. I typically write best when I feel hidden and anonymous, as though anything could be possible. It was always clear to me that Ferranteâ€™s battle against notoriety was waged, in a sense, for all of us. She wasnâ€™t doing this just for herselfâ€”she wants to change the world.
- And if you want to read an excerpt from Ferranteâ€™s latest autobiographical-but-not-really book, thereâ€™s one at the New Yorker:
I understood then, for the first time, that geography, language, society, politics, the whole history of a people, were for me in the books that I loved and which I could enter as if I were writing them. France was near, Yonville not that far from Naples, the wound dripped blood, the sparatrÃ p, stuck to my cheek, pulled the stretched skin to one side. â€œMadame Bovaryâ€ struck with swift punches, leaving bruises that havenâ€™t faded. All my life since then, Iâ€™ve wondered whether my mother, at least once, with Emmaâ€™s words preciselyâ€”the same terrible wordsâ€”thought, looking at me, as Emma does with Berthe: Câ€™est une chose Ã©trange comme cette enfant est laide! (â€œItâ€™s strange how ugly this child isâ€). Ugly: to appear ugly to oneâ€™s own mother.
- At LitHub, Emily Harnett discusses how language renders horror in this age of Trump, using The Shining as a case study:
Kubrickâ€™s film revels in the psychic resonance of the image: an elevator flooded with blood, twin girls at the end of a hallway, a madman with an ax. But the characteristic feature of Kingâ€™s novel is the way it dwells, with paranoid intensity, on the awful potency of its own language. The novel is as much about the wrathful potential of words and writing as it is about Kingâ€™s struggles with fatherhood and addiction. And perhaps it was the extreme slightness of Kubrickâ€™s scriptâ€”the perfunctory quality of its dialogueâ€”that gutted the novelâ€™s wordy, exuberant heart. Watching The Shining might feel like having a nightmare, but reading it feels like living in one, which we might as well be this October.