The Best Facts I Learned from Reading books in 2015. "Last year, I learned a piece of information so startling that I spent months repeating it to anyone who would listen."
Debate erupts as Hanya Yanagihara's editor takes on critic over bad review of A Little Life. [The Guardian] The editor of Hanya Yanagihara’s bestselling novel A Little Life has taken to the pages of the New York Review of Books to defend his author from a review that claimed the novel “duped” its readers “into confusing anguish and ecstasy, pleasure and pain”. [more inside]
The Art of Witness by James Wood [The New Yorker] How Primo Levi survived.
“Primo Levi [wiki] did not consider it heroic to have survived eleven months in Auschwitz. Like other witnesses of the concentration camps, he lamented that the best had perished and the worst had survived. But we who have survived relatively little find it hard to believe him. How could it be anything but heroic to have entered Hell and not been swallowed up? To have witnessed it with such delicate lucidity, such reserves of irony and even equanimity? Our incomprehension and our admiration combine to simplify the writer into a needily sincere amalgam: hero, saint, witness, redeemer.”[more inside]
"Maybe the story is the difference between the writers on the panels and the writers in the audience. That story is the creation of a celebrity class. That story is the fine line between jealousy and envy: I want everything you have versus I want everything I can have. Or is the story simply vanity?" Choire Sicha of the Awl reports on (and attempts to schmooze through) the two-day New Yorker literary festival
"Bibliotherapy is a very broad term for the ancient practice of encouraging reading for therapeutic effect. ... Today, bibliotherapy takes many different forms, from literature courses run for prison inmates to reading circles for elderly people suffering from dementia. Sometimes it can simply mean one-on-one or group sessions for “lapsed” readers who want to find their way back to an enjoyment of books. [Ella] Berthoud and her longtime friend and fellow bibliotherapist Susan Elderkin mostly practice “affective” bibliotherapy, advocating the restorative power of reading fiction." [more inside]
"The record store, the guitar shop, and now social media: when it comes to popular music, these places become stages for the display of male prowess. Female expertise, when it appears, is repeatedly dismissed as fraudulent. Every woman who has ever ventured an opinion on popular music could give you some variation (or a hundred) on my school corridor run-in, and becoming a recognized 'expert' (a musician, a critic) will not save you from accusations of fakery." The World Needs Female Rock Critics, by Anwen Crawford for the New Yorker. Discussed in the piece is Jessica Hopper's new collection of essays, The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, which has been greeted with glowing praise. Here's an interview she did with Hazlitt: 'Am I Womansplaining To You?' And here she speaks to Meredith Graves of Perfect Pussy: "Being a fangirl is all the qualification you need. And don't wait for anyone to give you permission. They won't. And you should do it anyways." [more inside]
If you truly would like to hear this story, first of all you will probably want to find out where I was born, how I spent my stupid childhood, what my parents did before my birth—in a word, all that David Copperfield rot. But truthfully speaking, I don’t have any urge to delve into that. "If Holden Caulfield Spoke Russian" (SLNYer)
The Defiant Ones. In today’s picture books, the kids are in charge.
The end of Moore’s influence came when, years later, she tried to block the publication of a book by E. B. White. Watching Moore stand in the way of “Stuart Little,” White’s editor, Ursula Nordstrom, remembered, was like watching a horse fall down, its spindly legs crumpling beneath its great weight. [more inside]
“I tried ‘Gravity’s Rainbow,’ and I thought it was fraudulent:” Art Garfunkel’s Reading Habits. (previously on MeFi)