Virginia Woolf

“An Endless Succession of Magnificent Possibilities”: Why We Love Vacation Novels

“Something tells me we’re not going to like this place,” declares Rosemary Hoyt’s mother in the first spoken words of Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night. “I want to go home anyway,” Rosemary replies. It’s a moment of exquisite irony, considering Fitzgerald has just spent 500 words describing the perfect isolation of the Hoyts’ French Riviera environs, where “the pink and cream of old fortifications, the purple Alp that bounded Italy, were cast across the water and lay quavering in the ripples and rings sent up by sea plants through the clear shallows.” It’s a traveler’s utopia, with all the romance of an undiscovered paradise and none of the touristic trappings — yet Rosemary, a follower in all things, doesn’t immediately see it that way. But with her unexpected introduction to Dick and Nicole Diver, models of cool elegance and social surety, Rosemary feels the sense of possibility she longed for in her travels open up. With one chance encounter, the promise of the trips unfurls itself. Dick’s voice “promised that he would take care of her, and that little later he would open up whole new worlds for her, unroll an endless succession of magnificent possibilities.” … Read More

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17 Pathbreaking Non-Binary and Gender-Fluid Novels

Contemporary literature is an amorphous, expansive thing, and it isn’t always easy to pinpoint how or why it is changing or what it may become. But in the current moment, at least one promising development is certain: literary writing that challenges or refuses stable gender binaries is of increasing critical and aesthetic prominence. The last month alone has seen the publication and widespread critical acclaim of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, a moving, multi-genre consideration of gender fluidity (among other themes). At the end of April, too, American audiences were finally able to access Anne Garétta’s Sphinx — wonderfully translated from the French by Emma Ramadan — a novel that uses no gender markers to refer to its protagonists. With these books in mind, the list below contains a collection of novels that feature agender, bigender, or gender-fluid characters or… Read More

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Why We Should All Be Spinsters: Writers Take on a New Feminine Mystique

Over half a century ago, Betty Friedan called suburban kitchens “comfortable concentration camps” in the pages of The Feminine Mystique. Friedan and her fellow (largely affluent, white, and narrowly defined) second-wave feminists believed that loosening household strictures and upending the power dynamic of intimate relationships should be a primary goal of feminism. … Read More

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Notoriously Difficult Literary Classics, Transformed Into Popular Page-Turners

British novelist Fay Weldon may have come up with a solution to the ever-simmering genre wars. Writers, she said, should simply write two versions of their books, one meaty and contemplative for print, and one racier for Kindle. … Read More

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50 Great Books About 50 Inspiring Women

There’s never a bad time to read about historically badass ladies, but since March is Women’s History Month, now is a particularly perfect moment to bust out your library card and take in some stories of women who’ve changed art, culture, and history as we know it. Here you’ll find 50 great biographies and autobiographies of famous, fascinating, and inspiring women, from Frida Kahlo to Mina Loy to Marie… Read More

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Girl Canon: 50 Essential Books About the Female Experience

Everyone knows that, statistically at least, girls read more than boys. But the classic, canonical growing-up books, at least in American culture, tend to represent the male experience — I’m thinking On the Road, The Catcher in the Rye, everything ever written by Bret Easton Ellis or Michael Chabon — and while these are great books, suitable for boys or girls, the question remains: where are the books for girls to grow up on? Well, they’re definitely out there, if perhaps assigned less often in schools to readers of both genders. And so I propose a Girl Canon, populated by books not necessarily for girls but which investigate, address, or represent the female experience in some essential… Read More

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50 Essential Literary Biographies

Literary biography is a hugely significant, if often overlooked, enterprise. Today, much of what we know about the authors we admire is filtered through an ocean of online mini-biographies, nearly all of which are copies of copies. The original source of an enormous amount of this information is the literary biography, and in the case of most authors, there are precious few examples of such books. Even exceedingly famous authors are gifted only a handful of quality biographies. With this in mind, I’ve come up with a list of 50 essential literary… Read More

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50 Books Guaranteed to Make You More Interesting

Everybody out there could stand to be a little more interesting. Yes, even you, trilingual lion-tamer astrophysicist reader. And you know what makes you more interesting? Books, of course. (You knew it was going to be books, because you’re already a little interesting) But not just any books. Some books have more capacity to raise your interest level than others. Here’s a list of 50 books that will make you smarter, funnier, deeper, and yes, more interesting — at least to some… Read More

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50 Books to Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! Now get to work. Everyone loves a good resolution at this time of year, but in three weeks’ time? Whole different story. So what to do when your resolve is flagging and you need a little reminder of the shiny new self you promised past you? Well, you might try and take some inspiration from a good book. After all, the worst that can happen is that you’ll have gotten some quality literature under your belt, right? Here, you’ll find book prescriptions for ten worthy resolutions, from getting healthier to learning new skills to reading more poetry. Yes. You’re… Read More

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