***Interesting Articles, Part One***
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I'll start us out with something I've just read. It's a superlatively good article by Jessmyn Ward about racism and poverty in Mississippi and her decision to raise her children there. This isn't a new article, but it was new to me.
Many of these are interviews with authors.
and then there's this sort-of followup about it. https://forward.com/opinion/416284/alice-walkers-conspiracy-theories-arent-just-...
Really disappointing. I never got around to The color purple yet though of course it's been on my get-to-someday list for ages, but now I won't touch it. Such a shame. :(
ETA: I missed this, but the NYT featured an article last month in which Walker responded to the controversy, and her support for David Icke:
Alice Walker, Answering Backlash, Praises Anti-Semitic Author as ‘Brave’
I absolutely hated her misportrayal of Black men in the movie based on her novel The Color Purple, so much so that I got into a heated argument about it with my girlfriend outside of the theater we saw it in, and we broke up on the spot. Because of that very negative experience I haven't read anything by her, so I won't miss anything by not reading her work.
I am a bit conflicted. I had not read The Color Purple yet but it had been recommended by a lot of friends. On one hand, I find Walker's latest display unforgivable. On the other hand, I had read books from authors that I despise as human beings - because sometimes it is all about the story and good storytellers can separate themselves from their stories (and I had been taught not to search the authors behind the stories). I almost wish we did not have that much access to the authors... almost. I probably won't read it anytime soon but I am still trying to decide in my head (and heart) if I can separate the author from her work here.
I had forgotten about this until I read that article and Alice Walker's Wikipedia page. She's nearly as much of a monster as V.S. Naipaul was, and maybe more so.
>10 AnnieMod: One of my friends on the only social media site I use (discounting LT, of course, which has social aspects but is first & foremost about the books!) is a major activist, like, she no longer works but that used to be her actual job (and she still does some phone work and such when there's something(/someone) that she feels strongly about), so she really keeps abreast of what's going on and is my main source of info on a lot of news, heh.
I know what you mean, there's times it's really crushing to find out someone who has been such a big deal, or who you really admire, etc, is actually a pretty terrible human being. :| It makes me really sad to have to write off people I'd thought were so great. But, on the other hand, particularly for those still living, I'm really glad to be able to choose not to support them, too. And in this case, there's plenty of other books I can read written by wonderful black authors/humans instead, and kidzdoc's focus on that has given me a great big list to add, too! :D
>11 kidzdoc: Oh no, I know nothing of Naipaul other than the name, what did he do?
>10 AnnieMod: It's a weird thing to like a work by a problematic author. I'm more willing to set aside the histories of dead authors, although not for every single one of them, than I am for living writers, especially when the transgression is not regretted or acknowledged. But it's a complex question - why am I willing to give some authors passes and others not at all?
Yeah it's difficult. For some I basically give them a pass, for the time they were writing, even if it's not like they couldn't have known better, but if whatever their issue was was something "everyone" at the time was thinking, well alright, I'll still keep it in mind but won't completely hold it against them for just going with the masses. But if they're like full-out awful, then no, I probably won't give them the time of day, unless possibly they're someone with a huuuge cultural impact, like Lovecraft (who I've still not gotten around to yet but do own and plan to at least start in on sooner than later). But then there's the occasional author who even though I ought to totally dislike them, I simply can't. Like Nabokov. I know he was shitty about women (though he did at least seem to really love his wife and considered her worthy, but I'm pretty sure she's the only woman he thought had any sense at all), but he was so damn brilliant, I just can't manage to hold anything against him. But pretty much anyone modern, any kind of bigotry/-ism found in their work or life is almost surely a write-off.
Yes, this is a really difficult one. In many ways it’s the same as the old dilemma about whether it’s OK to enjoy Wagner. And there’s still no easy answer to that one: everyone has to come to their own conclusion about it, ideally whilst still managing to respect the views of those who come to the opposite conclusion...
On the whole, I’ve always tried to stick to the line that the writer’s personal morals and political views are irrelevant to the quality of the work, and that bias I know about can’t hurt me. And that stupid things people said or did when they were very young or very old are not necessarily representative anyway.
But of course, that’s easier said than done. If I know that someone is a racist, homophobic, wife-beating religious fundamentalist who voted for Hitler, Brexit and Donald Trump, then of course I’m not going to be super-motivated to read their books. And even if I’m confident that they won’t convert me to the bigoted views I now know they hold, I have to consider whether I’m in danger of adding legitimacy to those views by buying those books or talking about them (even in a negative way).
Another is, will I contribute to supporting those racist etc views? For a living author, if I buy his or her works I am to some extent encouraging whatever views she or he holds. I suspect I won't be buying Alice Walker's books any time soon. To take a slightly more distant example, I might have been moved to dip into L. Ron Hubbard's science fiction a little, if only out of curiosity, but I am most certainly not going to buy the books (not even used!) because by doing so I would be supporting his lunatic views. (Even though he is dead, his copyrights still exist and are presumably being used to support his religious activities.)
And I don't listen to Wagner, partly because he was a pompous ass and various kinds of unpleasant, but also because I find his music godawful tedious. I've often wondered why the composition that was played outside Cosima Wagner's bedroom on Christmas morning 1870 was called the Siegfried Idyll and not the Cosima Idyll, since it was officially her birthday present.
I looked around the Times and found a formal response regarding the issue, and it seems they feel somewhat the same (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/18/reader-center/alice-walker-pamela-paul-book-r...). The most relevant part:
Given The Times’s large platform, are there any beliefs that we shouldn’t allow people to espouse?
If people espouse beliefs that anyone at The Times finds to be dangerous or immoral, it’s important for readers to be aware that they hold those beliefs. The public deserves to know. That’s news.
Do we have standards for what, if anything, we wouldn’t include?
By the Book has to be factually accurate and conform to Times style. We check to make sure the interviewee has spelled the name of the author correctly and gotten the title accurately, but we do not investigate the accuracy or assess the quality of the books mentioned.
In retrospect, would you have done anything differently with the column by Ms. Walker?
No. Readers have certainly learned something about the author and her tastes and opinions. I think it’s worthwhile information for them to know.
Our readers are intelligent and discerning. We trust them to sift through something that someone says in an interview, whether it’s the president or a musician or a person accused of sexual harassment, and to judge for themselves: Do I agree with this person??
(I might mention that I loved The Color Purple, book and movie. What a pity Walker has turned out to be so despicable.)
Board Books That Let Toddlers Join the Action
Caravaggio was apparently a rapist and murderer, but there is enough tenderness in his paintings, especially the Crucifixion of St. Peter and Supper at Emmaus, to make me weep.
And they missed at least three very obvious ones: Lamb House in Rye (Henry James and E F Benson), Abbotsford (Walter Scott), and Bateman’s (Kipling).
For people who claim to be avid readers, this is not a difficult concept to understand.
Reading literature whether it be happy tales or dark tordid affairs is the process that causes you joy, and thus the books provide you joy and thus you should keep those books. Kondo is just saying that you probably don't need that 40 page Tales around the Campfire book if you thought it was campy, or maybe you don't need The Illustrious Book of Knighthood, a book you never read but only kept because your mother-in-law gave it to you as a wedding present.
This is not a difficult concept. At all.
Maybe these people need to pick up the book "How not to overreact to simpleton ideas that are here to help you, not tell you what you HAVE to do". I hope it sparks them joy.
Richard J Evans - whose new biography is about to come out next month - on how Hobsbawm wasn’t really a Stalinist after all.
It never ceases to amaze me how often people feel like they have to publically justify not taking advice that actually wasn't specifically offered to them personally.
Insane. I haven't watched the show but based on books it's hard to imagine what could elicit such a response--and what does it have to do with men or women as such anyway? Sounds like what by now is some kind of internet law: "woman's face/opinion on screen"==>"pile on the abuse".
I think Kondo strikes a nerve for a lot of people because housekeeping is such a hypersensitive topic. I'll go out on a limb and say particularly for women, who even in 2019 have that "angel of the house" baggage lurking somewhere in their personal evaluation of how well they are or aren't managing. If you don't have "help" and you work, have kids or pets, are disabled, are a caretaker, or any combination of the above, life is generally a constant battle against not only clutter and dust and dirt but your own expectations of how your space should look AND how much effort you should be putting into making that happen. She totally pokes at that sore spot, even if her advice is well meaning.
From what I understand, she's someone people hire when they feel overwhelmed by their mess and wish to organise their homes. Maybe there's some difference between the books and the show; from the books at least, I didn't get the impression she was telling what to do to all and sundry, but advising specifically people feeling burdened by their accumulated possessions. Some people have a problem with what their apartments/closets/etc. look like and go to her for help. It's not like she's invading people's homes at random and starting fires.
Although it doesn't surprise me that there should be manufactured outrage at a very successful young woman on flimsiest pretexts possible.
What about all those gazillion other professional household advice-givers, women's magazines, "makeover" TV shows and the like, do people find those equally enraging?
As far as I can see, she just gives people tips about how to clear out stuff they don't want anyway and how to organize the stuff they do want so it's not a burden to themselves and others.
I don't get how that could possibly be offensive. People aren't forced to buy into the spark-o-joy thing if they find it off-putting.
If I did such a list, it would definitely include Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus, Thomas Bernhard’s The loser and Vikram Seth’s An equal music. Maybe Tous les matins du monde as well.
Tagmash for music and fiction: https://www.librarything.com/tag/fiction,+music
Disliked Bel Canto. I lost interest in The Animators and set it aside. Maybe I should try again.
Fiction Can Help Us Deal With Trump’s Chaos:
Making sense of the presidency, one novel at a time. By Laila Lalami
This was pretty scary. Not that some writers don't deserve it, but several of these stories are just plain social media gone mad.
Behold, the Tiniest of Books:
A grand collection of miniature volumes — 950 of them — is now on display at the Grolier Club in New York City.
Rediscovering the Armenian/Syrian roots of the family who inspired the characters in Swallows and Amazons.
James Purdy’s ashes to be interred in England, next to Edith Sitwell.
I'm mildly curious about what he's done, but I don't know if I'll ever find out.
That's interesting news. I hope they pick one of the more durable paperback formats. This is why I like Persephone Books - they do not republish the mostly known ones (so no Villette) but there are a lot of books written by women which had fallen to the sides and noone touches them.
Top 500 with filters available here: https://www.oclc.org/en/worldcat/library100/top500.html
Well, Cervantes is Cervantes. :)
I find the top 500 more interesting - some books in the lower part of the list are... interesting - some are there just because they are new enough to still have a lot of copies in the libraries; some are just surprising.
And here's a direct link to the online collection:
Tickets cost £12, and can be purchased via this link:
If anyone is interested in going, please let me know, as Meg and I are planning to meet for dinner beforehand.
(Interesting: the iPad autocorrect doesn’t believe in Cheshire, and wants me to be talking about the Channel Islands...)
Which just leads to everyone telling me I need an e-reader, but, really, isn't picking out which books to take with you half the fun of a vacation? (Er... Isn't it?)
>97 RidgewayGirl: My e-reader definitely did not like Gettysburg, PA, as it chose to malfunction there, with several days left on the trip. Yikes! I take along my e-reader plus at least one more print book for backup.
And a perspective from the authors guild.
I'm interested in this as I get MANY newly published books for my kindle from the library. I've acquire 31 books for my kindle so far this year and 17 of them were from the library. Most of these are new releases. If it gets harder to get ebooks from the library, though, I'm more likely to return to checking out physical copies of new books than purchasing them for my kindle. I don't really like purchasing for the kindle because of the format. After I finish it I can't loan it out to a friend, donate it, or display it on my shelves. Digital content is an interesting problem for publishers, authors, and readers - I'm curious to see how this works in the long-term.
Good article yesterday by University of Washington iSchool Professor Joe Janes here.
I'm going to try to be more careful about checking out ebooks from the library - I have had books expire unread and given that the library is sometimes only given a set number of loans, I will stop this habit and check them out one at a time.
>106 lisapeet: That's an excellent addition to the conversation. He makes a strong case.
>109 bragan: I love that book title so much. I would agree that the answer is a resounding yes.
>111 thorold: What a fun review. Quite rightly she nails Paltrow and Wine. Thatcher Wine.... such a ludicrously pretentious name. Reminds me of a documentary on UK TV I saw a while back where a ridiculous toffee-accented Brit in silk slippers was wandering around the garden of some multi-millionaire sniffing her grass and armpits before peddling her a bespoke scent for her home that probably cost roughly the same as the average three bedroom semi.
While being the first civilian in the world to read the Atwood sounds exciting, I know the book would still manage to find itself on the TBR pile unread while everyone around me ends up reading it before me.
An excellent article by Aleksandar Hemon (The Lazarus Project) about Peter Handke and his Nobel Prize for Literature.
I keep my own list of interesting articles I'm trying to curate; I'm unsure whether it's OK to repeat any LT postings from it on this one. Can someone let me know? Thanks in advance.
In any case, right now I'm collecting links to Harold Bloom who has recently died. At this point I haven't posted any of them to my own list.
New York Times, 10/15/2019: Harold Bloom, Critic Who Championed Western Canon, Dies at 89
The Guardian, 10/15/2019; Title is self-evident: Harold Bloom Obituary.
The Atlantic, 10/15/2019: Why Readers Resented Harold Bloom
" Thatcher Wine.... such a ludicrously pretentious name. Reminds me of a documentary on UK TV I saw a while back where a ridiculous toffee-accented Brit in silk slippers was wandering around the garden of some multi-millionaire sniffing her grass and armpits before peddling her a bespoke scent for her home that probably cost roughly the same as the average three bedroom semi."
Me, I was immediately reminded of Jasper Fforde. Thatcher Wine is definitely a contender for a character name in a Thursday Next novel.