Masha Gessen’s ‘The Brothers': Do We Need to ‘Understand’ the Boston Marathon Bombers?

In the days following the Boston Marathon Bombing, I was perhaps the biggest media patsy I’ve ever been in my life. I was listening in to police scanners, OMG-ing without context into Twitter, finding my eyes glaze over from an excess of TV, radio, and Internet. I was dumbly captivated by the entire saga, from the brutality… Read More

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Let’s Overanalyze The New ‘Game of Thrones’ Excerpt!

Last week, patron saint of procrastinators George R.R. Martin got all of geekdom to stop breathing down his neck by releasing a new chapter from The Winds of Winter, the sixth installment of the A Song of Ice and Fire saga. It’s not quite a release date, but since we won’t have new Game of Thrones for another five days or a full book until God knows when, it’s time for the next best thing: a gratuitous overanalysis of the new chapter and what it means for its heroine, the artist formerly known as Sansa Stark! Spoilers for the first five books of A Song of Ice and Fire, and thus the entirety of Game of Thrones, follow. … Read More

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Who Wrote the Best Translated Book of 2015?

Has translated literature in the United States turned a corner? With some exceptions, readers of literature in translation (which should include every schoolchild in the land) no longer wait listlessly for their favorite authors to be translated. Thanks to a thriving, industrious translation community at home and abroad, the situation is now the opposite: brilliant unknown or unfamiliar authors are published every month, along with new translations of classics, lost or beloved. Surely there is still work to be done, but we have the translation community to thank for doing it. … Read More

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VIDA Count Is Back: Which Magazines Are the Palest and Malest?

Today’s release of the annual VIDA count, for literary magazines and book reviews, puts me in mind of a literary gender avenger version of Santa Claus coming to town, weighing whether children (aka magazines) have been naughty or nice. In this case, the question is less how magazine editors have behaved in school, and more how aggressive they’ve been in counterbalancing their blind spots by mindful solicitation of and interest in female writers.

And the judgment of who’s getting coal in their metaphorical stockings is up to us, the readers of these publications when presented with VIDA’s pie charts. We’re encouraged by VIDA to email the editors with praise or disapproval, and we can also help the magazines rectify the situation — encouraging agents, pitchers of book reviews, publicists and writers to do their part and put underrepresented writing forward for consideration. … Read More

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Salman Rushdie Is a Harsh Goodreads Critic

Novelist Salman Rushdie is no stranger to literary controversy (being the target of an infamous 1989 fatwa after the publication of his… Read More

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20 Great Writers on Motivating Yourself To Write, No Matter What

As April ushers in sunshine and flowers, and the spring holidays have adherents talking about new beginnings, the writing world is overflowing with people setting goals. Some are participating in the 100 days project, which begins today and requires doing something creative each day for 100 days straight. Others are embarking on Camp NaNoWriMo, a “practice run” month of novel-writing, and the more verse-inclined are scribbling a poem a day for National Poetry Month (either through the auspices of NaPoWriMo or not).

And even if we’re doing none of those things, but simply contemplating Ken Cosgrove’s choice to abandon his writing to get revenge on his advertising colleagues on the premiere of Mad Men, today is a good day to rededicate oneself to the craft. So here’s a collection of words from writers beyond the usual suspects — writers of color, feminists, genre writers, and even a Renaissance poet — talking about the hard work of building habits, agonizing over the writing process, and wrestling with the muse. If they don’t have you waking up at dawn tomorrow with a pen and a notebook, nothing will. … Read More

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How Hurricane Katrina Gave Rise to a Flood of Dystopian Fiction

The word dystopia came into being in the 19th century, through two modifications of existing words. First, the utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham, in his Plan of Parliamentary Reform, simply changed the prefix of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia (οὐ or “u” means “not” — so “no place”), which signified a fictional place, to κακό or “bad,” to create cacotopia: a bad place. Decades later, in 1868, Bentham’s disciple, John Stuart Mill, made a speech to parliament in which he reiterated “cacotopia” before upping the ante with his own neologism, “dystopia.” … Read More

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Here’s the Cover for the Mysterious New David Mitchell Novel That Started on Twitter

Slade House, the forthcoming novel from David Mitchell, is apparently “a taut, intricately woven, spine-chilling, reality-warping novel,” one that is “[s]et… Read More

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‘Wolf Hall’ Brings Machiavellian Flair and Masterclass Acting to PBS

Nearly everyone agrees that the BBC’s adaptation of Wolf Hall, which will debut this Sunday on PBS Masterpiece, is, well, a masterpiece — or nearly so. The consensus is that the sets are decorous and true to the Tudor period; the costuming expertly done; the actors solid all the way around, with the exception of Mark Rylance, who plays a Cromwell for the ages; and the dialogue both witty and utilitarian. The only hitch, critics will complain, is that TV version of Wolf Hall — which brings together Hilary Mantel’s historical novels Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies — is dark and ploddingly slow. … Read More

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