Bookish Headlines #2

Well, the first installment of Bookish Headlines went over well, so here’s round two. It’s a hodgepodge of topics, including suggestions about how to organize your books, reasons to read old books in spite of their ‘problematic’ qualities, and a list of Golden Age science fiction novels:

Virginia Woolf? Snob! Richard Wright? Sexist! Dostoevsky? Anti-semite! by Brian Morton via the New York Times

There are some readers who refuse to read books from previous decades or centuries because the authors were sexist or racist or some other -ist, or they won’t read their books because the books contain such things. But Morton argues that it is important to read these books because they provide a window into earlier times, and help us not only to see the flaws of earlier times but to see our blind spots, as well.

‘Identity is a pain in the arse’: Zadie Smith on Political Correctness by Claire Armistead via The Guardian

Zadie Smith speaks out on identity politics, political correctness, and her problem with popular fictional women who are written by men.

’10 Golden Age Science Fiction Novels’ by Mike Colagrossi via Big Think

There are generally considered to be two different Golden Ages of science fiction, but this list combines those two gilded ages into one list of memorable science fiction novels.

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Photo by Pixabay on

A Refuge From Reality, a la Russe by Viv Groskop via The New York Review of Books

The notion of ‘internal exile’ has become popular, whether it’s called ‘hygge’, ‘mindfulness’ or ‘wellbeing’. It refers to the notion of people turning inward and developing an internal sanctuary to deal with dire events in the outside world. We have the notion of internal exile to thank for some brilliant Russian novels, as well as current design and wellness trends.

Poetry Slams Are Helping to Revitalise the Basque Language via The Economist

It’s not so much poetry slams as a long-suppressed, traditional Basque cultural event being revitalized thanks to the efforts of young women, who according to tradition, shouldn’t be competing in these events at all. The bertsolaritza is an art form involving improvised songs, and it is helping to revitalize interest in the Basque language.

Scientists Are Sharing Their Brilliant, Nerdy, and Adorable Valentine’s Poems on Twitter via IFL Science

No one ever accused NASA’s scientists of being brilliant poets, but they did create a series of hilarious twitter poems for Valentine’s Day.

A Valentine’s Day Plea for Writing Letters By Hand by Ron Charles via The Washington Post

When Ron Charles met the woman he eventually married, the two of them sent silly, hand-written poems back and forth to each other. They’ve since ended the tradition, but he misses it. This prompted him to think about how handwriting is becoming a lost art, and how much more magical and lasting handwritten correspondence is than an email, a text, or a tweet.

10 Ways to Organize Your Books That Don’t Involve Color by Laura Gaskill via Houzz

We’ve all seen rainbow shelves full of books organized by color, or even shelves with rows of spines turned inward to create a minimalistic array of white pages (and we’ve all wondered how the owners then find the books they want to read), but Houzz offered 10 different ways to organize your books that don’t involve color or flipping them the wrong way out.

Can She Help Restore Trust in the Nobel Prize for Literature? by Alison Langley via Ozy

In recent years, the Nobel Committee for the literature prize has been rocked by multiple scandals, allegations of sexual harassment, and is facing up to the fact that just fifteen women in a century-long history have won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Because of these things, many have lost faith in the committee’s decision-making and went as far as declaring that there would be no Nobel Prize for Literature in 2018 while the committee deals with its internal problems. The Swedish Academy, who runs the Nobel Prize program, has tapped several new voices in literature and book criticism, including 31-year-old Swedish literary critic Mikaela Blomqvist. They’re hoping that new voices who are entirely separated from the previous committee will help to restore the book world’s faith in the Nobel Prize.

Are We Being Pedantic, Or Are These Real Problems in Fantasy? by Namera Tanjeem via BookRiot

In Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, the primary setting is a world based upon Russia. Bardugo’s naming scheme does not, however, exactly follow Russian naming conventions. Many fans- particularly Russian fans- have taken issue with this. They feel that, because the world is based upon Russia, it should follow Russian naming conventions. But others, including Bardugo, point out that this is a fantasy world, and while it is heavily flavored by Russian lands and culture, it is still a fantasy world and so is not actually Russia. Tanjeem wants to know if this is actually problematic, or if readers are just being pedantic.

My opinion? They’re being pedantic. If Bardugo’s story had been set in Russia, then I would expect her to follow Russian naming conventions, as Katherine Arden did in her Winternight trilogy. But the Grishaverse is not Earth, and Ravka is not Russia, and therefore I don’t find it necessary for Bardugo to follow those conventions.

Am I a stickler for accuracy in books? Yes, particularly when it comes to weapons and clothing. But names? I’m actually less picky. As long as the names have the same philological grounding as the country they’re based upon (or are in line with the fantasy world they’re part of), then I don’t mind. If you look at just about any fantasy novel based on Culture X, there is sure to be something that isn’t “right” when compared to the source. If the naming conventions, history, or whatever else might be inaccurate in a book are that upsetting, there’s a simple solution: stop reading the book.

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23 thoughts on “Bookish Headlines #2

  1. Great choices! Will read more in depth later!! And FYI, from what I know of the Times piece, we need to read lit of the past….

  2. I can’t imagine being so mad about the name conventions that the conversation moved beyond a Tweet or two saying “that’s annoying.” But for it to rise up and become a “thing” seems pedantic to me. The NYT and The Guardian posts sound like they discuss a similar concern: political correctness and identity politics in books. I want to read that NYT article, but I’ve used up all my freebie articles for the month, lol. I catch it March 1st. 🙂

    The post about the Nobel Committee reminds me of a news story about the Academy Awards. This culture commentator was talking about how certain movies stood no chance or how specific actors were a shoo-in based on the Academy wanting to look “woke” but also sticking with tradition (for instance, he thought Glen Close would be a traditional winner, while the movies like Blackkklansmen was on the list to appease folks, as was Black Panther.

  3. Right? It seems like so many people are just wandering around, looking for things to get mad about. That just seems like a waste of time. Why would you get so worked up that you spend a bunch of time making a fuss about some detail when you could be spending that time looking for something else that makes you happy?

    The Academy definitely has a long way to go, but the acting nominations, I think, are getting to the point where white people aren’t the default anymore, which is great. Black Panther’s nominations were well-deserved- it won for costuming and production design because (at least in my opinion) it was the best of those categories. I think its Best Picture nomination was because the Academy was under fire for its snobbishness when it comes to genre. Few genre films are nominated– it tends to be dramas, with period dramas really being the only other genre they nominate. Immensely popular film like Black Panther tend to be passed over because they’re ‘fantasy’ or ‘superhero’ or just popular. The Academy has definitely changed in the last ten years, but has room to grow.

  4. I love that Olivia Coleman won best actress for The Favourite, but the one role I always picture her in is Doris in Hot Fuzz. She’s the police officer who is always making sex jokes at work because all the other offices are male.

    I DO understand people being unhappy about representation in books, and it’s their right to be unhappy, but I get confused when they ask that others change the thing that makes them unhappy. I know that some readers were mad a young adult author Hillary Monahan because her Romany characters weren’t portrayed correctly. Except Hillary Monahan is Romany. I mean, WTF. She went onto Twitter and stood up for herself, and I see she’s still around and selling books.

  5. Exactly! You can’t expect people to change their lives and work to suit your expectations. I recently found an Ansel Adams quote I wrote in my bullet journal about the subject:

    “No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.”

    So rather than try to dictate what other people should write, we should feel confident to create our own things in whatever medium we work best in.

  6. What a great selection of posts! I so agree with Morton’s point of view! I’m Jewish and Dostoevsky is my favourite author- I don’t agree with the perspective to not read books because of the author’s views at all. And I definitely want to check out Zadie Smith’s piece. And the sci fi list and the one on fantasy world building 🙂 Personally I agree about your view on names and things in world building- although I did read the criticism and just found it funny. It’s not a big deal though.

  7. I like this collection of articles you’ve shared, Kim. It shows me I’m not nearly as well-read as I’d like to be. XD What a great breadth of sources!

    I am with you about the Grishaverse debate being pedantic. This is FANTASY. That said, Bardugo should realize that now she is basically a literary household name, this sort of thing will happen. It doesn’t justify people picking on her work, but this is what happens whenever anyone is successful. Sigh. I wish people would live and let live.

    Did the article from Houzz inspire you at all? My bookshelves are a nightmare when it comes to organization and I am not remotely motivated to do anything about it. #SorryNotSorry

  8. Thanks! Whenever I have a really slow period at work, I will buzz through news articles. ‘Books and Literature’ is one of my favorite topics, so I have an entire section of bookish headlines.

    People really do need to live and let live. No one is perfect, and no book is perfect. Why spend so much time getting outraged over some little thing like names in fantasy books?

    It did not inspire me. *lol* I should probably go back through my collection and reorganize things. I don’t like having books laying across the tops of books on my shelves, but I do, so clearly some organization is called for!

  9. I like that philosophy of trying to get some news articles in when things are slow at work. I need to do something to decompress sometimes at work and I never know what to do. I’ll be borrowing that for my future. 🙂
    I mean, Bardugo’s names are way better than something like Flanitusoient or Allensoitions or even sflkjeoip4213908dfjok21. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the latter in a future fantasy novel. XD As long as I can recognize the name, I’m happy. Bonus points if I think I can pronounce it. XD
    I just need more bookshelves! My books will always be sideways until I can figure out how to make more storage happen. Lord knows I’m not getting rid of a single book! These are precious.

  10. I don’t know if news articles are the best way to decompress, but at least bookish headlines are a little less likely to raise your blood pressure!

    Bardugo’s names are definitely easier to keep up with. I just started another Russian-based YA fantasy, and the author is flinging new names around left and right. The name scheme might be accurate, but I can’t tell amidst all the new names flying around.

    If only I had the space to keep all the books! Alas, I do not, so there must be order and unhauls..

  11. Haha– I definitely meant ONLY bookish news articles. The politics of the world is too rich for my blood pressure right now. I like bookish articles and blog how tos right now.

    I just picked up the Grisha trilogy a few weeks ago– It was sooo cheap and I loved Six of Crows so I couldn’t help myself. Mwahaha. I look forward to checking out all these names and figuring out what I can identify as Russian and “Russian-ish”. That will be a fun puzzle.

    My husband and I are looking into moving over the course of the next year. I’ll definitely be unhauling some books to make space, as we’ll be moving into a smaller home. Wah Wah. This will be difficult.

  12. I keep waffling about whether or not I want to read the Grisha trilogy since a lot of reviewers I like are evenly divided on it. It’s on the backburner, at any rate. We’ll see.

    Good luck with the move! Are you moving to a new city, or just to a different space? I keep thinking about moving, but my rent is so low and my neighborhood is so quiet it’s hard to want to leave.

  13. My husband is a farmer, but right now he rents land 45 minutes from our house to farm. It’s challenging. So, we’re going to move out to the country and buy our own farm land! Most farm houses are smaller, older, and less convenient than the suburban and city houses I’m used to (Read: 1 full bathroom and literally zero closets). I’ve acquired a LOT of things over the last few years as a number of people I’m close to have died and my parents downsized into a much smaller home. So, now it’s my turn to deal with what they handed off to me. Oops.

    I can relate to low rent and quiet space. The farm life will give us quiet, but not low rent. What is the potential impetus for moving?

  14. That’s a bit of a drive for farming! Good luck finding a place! Personally, I prefer older houses. They were built before air conditioning was a thing, and so they take advantage of natural breezes and clever construction to keep the place warm and cool. Generally. But there are definite disadvantages. Good luck with your search!

    For myself, it would be nice to have more space. My apartment is tiny, and because it’s in a century-old building, there aren’t all that many electrical outlets. It would be nice to be able to plug things in wherever. But for the most part, I can’t complain too much about it. It’s nice and quiet.

  15. I just want you to know your comments on older homes definitely helped persuade me — we put an offer in on a farm we were looking at! Fingers crossed.

    Quiet is completely key for me when it comes to homes. Outlets would be nice in this tech-driven world we live in. But, well, that’s what splitters are for? *shrug* We can’t have it all without a ton of money. And goodness knows I am not growing money right now. I’ll take what I can get. 🙂

    Are you looking for a new place? Or did my talk just inspire you to share your considerations?

  16. It mostly just inspired me to share my own considerations. 🙂 I’ve been off and on looking around for a place of my own, but with real estate prices the way they are, it seems like the only houses I can afford need a lot of things replaced- like floors and walls.

    Good luck on the offer! I hope you get it!

  17. Preach at me. Real estate is SO expensive. My husband and I are stressing out a bit with the financial state we’ll be in once we close the house… But that’s okay. We’ll make it. 🙂

    I hope that prices drop so that you’ll be able to find the adorable house you want soon!

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