There continues to be news in the bookish world, even if some of it is less news and more editorial. That doesn’t make it less interesting, just less… newsy?
But anyway. Bookish Headlines, the fourth installment!
- ‘The Left Hand of Darkness at Fifty’ by Charlie Jane Anders, via The Paris Review
In her seminal work, The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin imagines a genderless world where its people become male or female only long enough to reproduce. One person can become both male and female, mother and father, multiple times in their lives. As ambassador from the interplanetary Ekumen, Genly Ai tries to communicate with the people of the world but is baffled by his own prejudices and assumptions throughout as rising tides of nationalism shift the political landscape around him. Fifty years on, this slim book still has the power to fascinate us and makes us question our own assumptions of gender, power, and communication.
- ‘The Joy of Books is Lost When We Treat Reading as Self-Improvement’ by Sally O’Reilly via Quartzy
I read a lot. I also read fast. I always have. It comes from having been taught to read before starting kindergarten, and always being in love with the written word. While Sally O’Reilly might raise an eyebrow at the fact that, to date, I’ve read 42 books in 2019 I don’t feel that I missed out on the pleasures of slow reading or think that I rushed through books just so I could check them off a list. But she has a point in this article, in which she extols the virtues of taking your time with a good book and allowing it to wrap you up within its world.
If you can’t travel to a particular country, reading its literature is the next best way to learn about it. But not every country in the world has had its stories translated into English, which leaves it closed off to the English-speaking world. Fortunately, more of the world’s literature is being translated, which helps open doors of understanding between countries, cultures, and people. Hamid Ismailov’s The Devil’s Dance sounds like an interesting book. Given that one of my general reading goals is to read more works in translation, I’ll have to track down a copy.
- ‘Why are we so worried about “Instapoetry”?‘ by Anna Leskiewicz via NewStatesman America
Personally, I have no real interest in Instapoetry, those little fragments you’ll find on Instagram, written in a typewriter font and accompanied by a line drawing. I’ve never seen an Instapoem that made think, the way a single fragment of Sappho can do. But if Instapoets like Rupi Kaur and Amanda Lovelace can help generate interest in deeper poetical works, then so much the better. And while in the article, Lovelace is quoted as accusing her critics of ‘gatekeeping’, and thus would probably accuse me of being a gatekeeper for criticizing her poetry (I debated putting “poetry” in “quotes”), let me point you toward several poets who are not the white cis-gendered men Lovelace reflexively things of, and who will knock your socks off by doing a bit more than writing pithy sentences with strategic line breaks:
Langston Hughes, ‘The Negro Speaks of Rivers’
Rachel McKibbens, ‘Untitled’
Roger Bonair-Agard and Marty McConnell, ‘Safe’
Maya Angelou, ‘Still I Rise’
Andrea Gibson, ‘Blue Blanket’
Oscar Wilde, ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’
Khary Jackson, ‘Her Name’
There are a few slam poets in the list above, and I have seen all of them live. Their performances were electric. I can still remember, twelve years on, how I felt when Andrea Gibson performed their poem, ‘Blue Blanket’ on a local stage. While Slam Poetry has it detractors, and there is, admittedly, a certain amount of shtick involved is some of it, the really good poems and performers will blow your hair back and make you remember what they’ve said for a long, long time.
There are a lot of conversations going on in the book community right now- particularly in YA- about who gets to write what stories. That is, is a heterosexual woman “allowed” to write and sell stories about gay men, etc.? Personally, I think everyone is free to write whatever story they please. The final product will live or die on its own merits. But if an author is going to write about a culture that they are not part of, then it is in their best interest to consult someone who is part of that culture to make sure they don’t misrepresent it in their story.
As a Jewish woman, Ingall reads a lot of pre-publication children’s books to make sure they don’t, for example, depict Passover incorrectly or use the Hebrew language in an inappropriate setting. Her job does not involve censorship. She is fact-checking, not trying to derail books or authors’ careers. It’s an article that a lot of people on Book Twitter and Goodreads could learn something from. Ingall is not opposed to non-Jewish people writing stories about Jews. She just wants to make sure that, if they do, they get the facts right.