The New Yorker

Theater of Cruelty: The Strange American Reception of Nell Zink’s ‘Mislaid’

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

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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.
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Spice Girls Reunions and ‘Furious 7’s’ Chances at a Best Picture Oscar: Links You Need to See

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The seventh time might be a charm for the Fast & Furious action film franchise. At least Vin Diesel seems to think so, telling Variety with an intense enthusiasm this week that, “It will probably win best picture at the Oscars, unless the Oscars don’t want to be relevant ever.” Diesel wasn’t joking, but we’re not holding our breath that the Academy will come around — just in case, however, Slate has made a “For Your Consideration” ad. 
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Why Are Female Directors Never Viewed as Part of a “Scene”?

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In The New Yorker, Richard Brody has published a response to Manohla Dargis’ magnificent three-part series in the New York Times on the difficult road for female filmmakers in 2015. In Brody’s opinion, Dargis ignores the fact that there are genuinely talented female filmmakers out there — whether it’s Josephine Decker, who Brody proclaimed a “star” after the release of her first two films Thou Wast Mild and Lovely and Butter on the Latch, or Miranda July, whose Me and You and Everyone We Know and The Future when it was reviewed, received fascinating reviews, ranging from “nope!” to “genius!”
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Spider Dresses and Empty Puppy Promises: Links You Need to See

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Let’s talk about personal space. Personally, I think anyone wearing this robo-spider dress should just be left alone. For that reason, it’d probably be useful at parties. People could kiss the idea of unwanted suitors goodbye if robo-spider clothing ever became available to the public, because it’s pretty easy to distinguish between a metallic arachnid “come hither” and “back off.”
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The Secret Truce in the Literary Genre Wars

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Should young-adult, science fiction, and fantasy novels be considered works of literature? Is The Hunger Games a work of art? Does anyone care? Over the last couple of years, a handful of authors have pitched their tents in the no man’s land between “genre fiction” and “pure literature.” But the more intense the genre wars become, the more difficult it is to understand what it’s all about. Is it a question of what we should read? Is it a critical discussion about what counts as “literary quality” writing? Or is it a war of words over which books should be published?
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On Loving “Bad” People: Links You Need to See

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With the polar vortex looking down on the East Coast and the sun setting on one of our last days of loveliness, perhaps we should be focusing on indoor activities: This may be a little old, but BuzzFeed’s piece about people’s pooping preferences is extremely timely and crucial. Most of us have been privately pooping since we were five or so, and thus our habits have solidified, let’s say, in isolation, without outside influence. There are some odd findings here; for example, 9% of those polled take off their shirts to poop. Not sure what purpose that serves, but you know, whatever…floats your boat.
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Move Over, James Franco: Tom Hanks Pens So-So Fiction for ‘New Yorker’

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Move over James Franco and Steve Martin: you aren’t the only fiction-penning celebrities around. This week, The New Yorker features a short story by Tom Hanks — yes, that Tom Hanks — which seems to be heavily influenced by his time working on Apollo 13. While reading, I had do my very best to approach the story, a futuristic space-jaunt called “Alan Bean Plus Four”, as a lighthearted foray into fiction by a revered actor (director, screenwriter, producer, and cultural figure) and not as something I would mercilessly savage if I were in a fiction workshop and a “packet” of my peers’ writing had just arrived in my arms for a pre-class critique.
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