I was worried about re-reading The Bloody Chamber, the late British writer Angela Carter’s most famous work, a collection of short stories based on the Western fairy-tale canon that Penguin Classics has just released in a deluxe edition to commemorate what would have been the author’s 75th birthday. Originally published in 1979, it preceded the recent wave of fairy-tale remixing by roughly three decades, and I feared that the Internet’s endless Disney Princess variations might have robbed Carter’s stories of the potency they possessed when I first read them, over a decade ago. Specifically, would the insistently feminist tone of so much contemporary reappropriation render The Bloody Chamber‘s own celebrated view of gender in our culture’s most cherished bedtime stories too obvious to be thrilling? … Read More
The VIDA count has exposed persistent gender disparities in prestigious literary publications’ bylines — but what happens once books are published, sent into the world, and made ready for critical consumption and evaluation? Does a bias remain? Novelist Nicola Griffith set out to answer to this question by looking at the genders of both author and subject in the Pulitzer Prize, the Man Booker Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics’ Circle Award, the Hugo Award (for science fiction and fantasy) and the Newbery Medal (for children’s literature) in the past decade and a half. And what she discovered goes even deeper than a byline… Read More
Now that its arrival is only a matter of days away (June 2nd), it’s safe to say that Colin Winnette’s Haints Stay — a deconstructed Western praised by Sam Lipsyte, Saeed Jones, and Lindsay Hunter, among many others, and published by the unimpeachable Two Dollar Radio — is the most anticipated independent novel of the summer. And, frankly, it may be the most anticipated American independent novel since Sarah Gerard’s Binary Star (which we told you about several times and praised on its way to widespread acclaim). Certainly we’ve been thinking about Winnette’s book since January, when I called it “a work by an assured writer who is on the verge of something important” — Haints Stay proves he’s no longer on the verge.
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For as long as there have been reviews and blurbs and publicists, the phrase “This summer’s [insert name of last year’s bestseller]” has been beguiling — and assaulting — readers from the catalogs and roundups that roll out around this time each year. In the aughts, for instance, wave after wave of empowered, transformative female characters set the standard against which other novels were marketed. In 2004 and 2005, any frothy, sartorial saga that hinted at the indignities of working as an underling was “This summer’s The Devil Wears Prada.” In 2006 and 2007, tales of ass-kicking punkettes on the fringes of society were inevitably “This summer’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” In 2008 and 2009, any woebegone memoir of triumph-through-travel was “This summer’s Eat, Pray, Love.” In 2009 and 2010, any injustices in small-town America were “This summer’s The Help.” And since then, every novel that hints at an unreliable narrator, that presupposes that marriage is not all hand-holding and dream-sharing, that lets a lady go off the rails and takes us along for the ride, is, of course, “This summer’s Gone… Read More
Gloria Steinem—the activist, journalist, and nationally recognized leader and spokesperson for the feminist movement in the late ’60s and early… Read More
Nell Zink’s second novel, Mislaid, announces her as one of a handful of the best novelists on the American scene. More satirical, willfully magisterial, and, yes, even earnest than The Wallcreeper — a debut that was far more earnest than even its admirers admit — Mislaid draws its immense humor and literary ingenuity from the postwar American South, that weird, melodramatic dispositif of class, race, and gender lines that strains to confine our lives even today. By the end of Mislaid, the satire dissolves into parody, or vice versa, leaving a cast of characters — of human animals in a habitat — who have rearranged their limitations, in a way that may offend many readers, in order to pursue better, shared lives. … Read More
Anna North’s new novel, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, examines the impact of a tenacious but difficult young filmmaker through the narration of those who loved her. “I really just imagined her as a filmmaker from the very beginning,” North says of Sophie, a character she’d been thinking about for years before she sat down to write the novel. “I was interested in having her be someone whose art draws from life.” But what North didn’t want was to write about a writer, so she chose to explore an art form that was visual and documentarian.
In an interview with Flavorwire, North shared her recommendations for books and films about female artists that she loves, many of which informed her thinking as she created Sophie and her troubled, compelling world. … Read More
The winners of the eighth annual Best Translated Book Award were announced today at BookExpo America in New York… Read More
“I was thinking that life is just the history of what we give our attention to,” says the title character of Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose Novels, just a few pages into the series’ fifth and final volume, 2012’s At Last. “The rest is packaging.” He is speaking to one of his recently deceased mother Eleanor’s silly (if sincere) friends from the New Age movement, but like most of the dialogue in these books, Patrick’s observation works on multiple levels. In this case, he’s also articulating a vital way of looking at St. Aubyn’s 20-year autobiographical fiction project, mercilessly examining his own personal history through the eyes of an equally exacting alter ego. … Read More
According to the National Ocean Service, almost 40 percent of the American population lives in a county located directly on a shoreline. If you then imagine America as a giant sanitation vehicle, and if you also figure that most Americans can read, then you arrive at a simple conclusion: we are all, in one way or another, human literary trashcans destined for the beach. With this in mind, here is a selection of the most interesting literary trash of 2015 so… Read More