Banned Books Week Launches With Call to Read Books the 'Closed-Minded' Want Shut [The Guardian] ““But librarians would argue that the best way to guide your children’s reading is to read with them, and talk about what you read. For every parent convinced that a book is evil, there are two other parents who think it’s wonderful. So you have the right to guide your own children’s reading – but not to dictate or suppress someone else’s,” said LaRue. “The truth is, [these] issues are already a part of many children’s lives, and suppressing books about them doesn’t help anyone. In fact, these books may tell children that they are not alone, that what’s happening to them is not unique, and it can be survived. The world can be a dangerous place, but reading about it makes it less so.”” [more inside]
One Third of Parents Avoid Reading Children Scary Stories, Study Finds [The Guardian] “A survey of 1,003 UK parents by online bookseller The Book People found that 33% would steer clear of books for their children containing frightening characters. Asked about the fictional creations they found scariest as children, a fifth of parents cited the Wicked Witch of the West from L Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, with the Child Catcher from Ian Fleming’s Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang in second place. Third was the Big Bad Wolf, in his grandmother-swallowing Little Red Riding Hood incarnation, fourth the Grand High Witch from Roald Dahl’s The Witches, and fifth Cruella de Vil, from Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians.”
Subway Reading: Taking Fake Book Covers on the Subway [YouTube] [Video] How would you react if you saw someone reading 'Getting Away With Murder for Dummies on public transport?' Comic Scott Rogowsky (@ScottRogowsky) took some pretend, provocative book covers on an underground operation. [via: The Guardian]
Scientists find evidence of mathematical structures in classic books. [The Guardian] James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake has been described as many things, from a masterpiece to unreadable nonsense. But it is also, according to scientists at the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Poland, almost indistinguishable in its structure from a purely mathematical multifractal.
“The absolute record in terms of multifractality turned out to be Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. The results of our analysis of this text are virtually indistinguishable from ideal, purely mathematical multifractals,” said Professor Stanisław Drożdż, another author of the paper, which has just been published in the computer science journal Information Sciences.
Four-day marathon public reading of War and Peace begins in Russia. [The Guardian]
A marathon four-day Russian public reading of Leo Tolstoy’s vast classic novel War and Peace kicked off on Tuesday morning, with more than 1,300 people in more than 30 cities preparing to make their contributions to the record-breaking project. Coordinated by Tolstoy’s great-great-granddaughter Fekla Tolstaya, and featuring a number of cultural luminaries including the Polish film director Andrzej Wajda, the readings are being streamed by Russian state television channel Kultura. One volume of Tolstoy’s fictionalised history of Russia during the Napoleonic campaign will be read each day.
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]
Marlon James, winner of this year’s Man Booker prize, believes that writers of color are “pandering to the white woman.” [The Guardian]
The 2015 Man Booker prize winner Marlon James has slammed the publishing world, saying authors of colour too often “pander to white women” to sell books, and that he could have been published more often if he had written “middle-style prose and private ennui”.[more inside]
"There’s a long and noble tradition of literary critics misunderstanding Joseph Conrad. Partly that’s because he is such a complicated, dense and fascinating writer. Far more words have been written about him than he ever wrote himself – and not everyone can get it right all the time. Especially when you throw combustible postcolonial issues into the mix." [Sam Jordison - The Guardian] [more inside]
Henning Mankell, Dean of Scandinavian Noir Writers, Dies at 67 [The New York Times]
Henning Mankell, the Swedish novelist and playwright best known for police procedurals that were translated into a score of languages and sold by the millions throughout the world, died Monday morning in Goteborg, Sweden. He was 67. Mr. Mankell was considered the dean of the so-called Scandinavian noir writers who gained global prominence for novels that blended edge-of-your-seat suspense with flawed, compelling protagonists and strong social themes. The genre includes Arnaldur Indridason of Iceland, Jo Nesbo of Norway and Stieg Larsson of Sweden, among others.[more inside]
Novelist Mia Couto discusses his hopes for conservation after the death of Cecil the lion, and his memories of Mozambique’s bloody civil war. [The Guardian] [more inside]
Living in the Age of Permawar by Mohsin Hamid [The Guardian]
You see from your nook that humanity is afflicted by a great mass murderer about whom we are encouraged not to speak. The name of that murderer is Death. Death comes for everyone. Sometimes Death will pick out a newborn still wet from her aquatic life in her mother’s womb. Sometime Death will pick out a man with the muscles of a superhero, pick him out in repose, perhaps, or in his moment of maximum exertion, when his thighs and shoulders are trembling and he feels most alive. Sometimes Death will pick singly. Sometimes Death will pick by the planeload. Sometimes Death picks the young, sometimes the old, and sometimes Death has an appetite for the in-between. You feel it is strange that humanity does not come together to face this killer, like a silver-flashing baitball of 7 billion fish aware of being hunted by a titanic and ravenous shark. Instead, humanity scatters. We face our killer alone, or in families, or in towns or cities or tribes or countries. But never all together.
If this is a real picture of the Brontës, then I'm Heathcliff! [The Guardian] A collector is convinced that the £15 photograph he snapped up on eBay is of the Brontë sisters. It’s highly unlikely, but the story is a mark of our enduring fascination with the literary family. Plus, a Brontë Society expert gives her verdict. Could this be the only photograph of the three Brontë sisters? asked Seamus Molloy [Daily Mail], who picked the photograph up for 15 quid on eBay.
"Although it has been said that every person is the hero of their own life story, it is more accurate to say that every person is the underdog of their own life story." Why southern gothic rules the world [SLGuardian], MO Walsh
UK should consider ban on Mein Kampf, says Scottish Labour MP [The Guardian]
Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, Scottish Labour MP Thomas Docherty has written to culture secretary urging a ‘sensitive debate’ on allowing its sale.
“Murakami-san no tokoro” or “Mr. Murakami’s place”: [Japanese] an agony uncle column by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. [more inside]
Ian McEwan: the law versus religious belief. [The Guardian]
The conjoined twins who would die without medical intervention, a boy who refused blood transfusions on religious grounds…Ian McEwan on the stories from the family courts that inspired his latest novel.[more inside]
The literary novel as an art work and a narrative art form central to our culture is indeed dying before our eyes. Will Self on the future of the novel.
Creative writing professor Hanif Kureishi says such courses are 'a waste of time' [The Guardian]
Buddha of Suburbia author, who teaches subject at Kingston University, added that many of his students could 'write sentences' but not tell stories.
First editions, second thoughts. [The Guardian] "Interactive: From Amsterdam to Wolf Hall, Booker winners and bestsellers – authors annotate their own first editions.
'My son got a very low mark': Writer Ian McEwan describes the odd experience of helping his son with an A-level essay about one of his novels, Enduring Love, and finding his son's teacher disagreed with his interpretation of the novel. This is an excerpt from Ian Katz's interview with McEwan at the Guardian's Open Weekend festival on 24 March 2012. [Full Interview]
A 'Mirky' legal battle for J.R.R. Tolkien Estate. Texas case will contest the right of Tolkien's literary estate to block fictional use of the Lord of the Rings author's name. The estate of JRR Tolkien is embroiled in a fierce legal battle over an American novel that uses the author of The Lord of the Rings as a central character. The J.R.R. Tolkien's Estate has been involved with other legal battles in the past.
And the winner of the Good Sex Award is... "...recognizing the best sex writing in fiction from the past year. We've [salon.com] convened a panel of literary star judges -- Walter Kirn, Maud Newton, Louis Bayard and Salon's own Laura Miller -- to reward the best-written, most interesting and most convincing piece of sex writing published in a novel in 2010." No 2., No. 3, No. 4, No.5, No. 6, No. 7, No. 8. The 2010 Bad Sex Award Winner.
Twelve Tales of Christmas is a podcast just launched by The Guardian featuring notable modern authors, such as Jeanette Winterson, Ali Smith, Colm Toíbin and Julian Barnes, reading one of their favorite short stories, by authors including JG Ballard, Katherine Mansfield, Italo Calvino, Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Carver. A story will be posted daily for the next 12 days. The first author and story is Philip Pullman reading The Beauties by Anton Chekhov (mp3). [rss, iTunes]
The Guardian has a nice interview with Ursula K. Le Guin about utopian science fiction, anthropology, ethnicity in Earthsea and the differences between her two Earthsea trilogies. She also comments on the upcoming miniseries.
The Lathe of Heaven is a taoist novel, not a utopian or dystopian one.... There is an old American saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The novel extends that a bit - "Even if it's broke, if you don't know how to fix it, don't."