Welcome to Vox’s weekly collection of book links, a curated selection of the internet’s best articles on books and related topics.
This Monday is Memorial Day, which can mean a day off for you. It does it for me, and I consider how best to spend it in this strange and closed time. Maybe a long walk around my neighborhood, with enough stops to look at the lush early summer flowers. Maybe I try to cook something elaborate and summery, with asparagus and beautiful new lettuce and parmesan cheese.
I will definitely read, because reading is how I give meaning to the world right now. Fiction is a technology designed to help us feel our emotions, and god, I have a lot to feel these days. You probably too.
And so, to help us get into a frame of mind, here’s the best online writing on books and related topics for the week of May 17, 2020.
Of course, some of the guidelines the state has given are helpful, but there is still much to interpret. In response to these gray areas, companies and organizations are jumping in, filling my inbox with checklists and free signage to hang in my store, which assures me they know best. If real human lives are at stake, I’d love to hear from some experts. Perhaps some experienced scientists and public health officials. I don’t think I should rely on my local office store checklist.
- One of the most reliable sources of hate out there, Town and Country has turned to celebrity curator Thatcher Wine to criticism of celebrity bookshelf backgrounds. Here is Mr. Wine on Stanley Tucci’s bookshelf:
“I can’t focus on what Stanley is doing with that crisis unfolding on that top bookshelf in the background. Leaning books on the right, no bookend holding them on the left, and a beautiful bowl about to die They’ve probably been like this for years without anyone being injured, but there’s a lot of tension, like a good Stanley Tucci movie maybe. ” Score: 4/10
For her fellow workshop member, Davidson Garrett (no relationship), a forty-year-old retired taxi driver, writing poems is now the foundation, as the medium, at least in his approach, is both current and timeless, giving context to more direct incentives. “I go to Madison Square Park a lot because I live around there. It’s so beautiful with the flowers and everything. The flowers – I just needed something joyful in my life, “he said. “I needed a transfusion of joy. . . . I recently wrote a poem about the pipe organ because I think music is healing and very beneficial. ”
The writers are an unusually dressed group, safely far from the world of layoffs, mass graves, zoom burials. (It is only more recently that we have seen first-person accounts of metro workers, paramedics, ER physicians, and nurses.) Their quarantines are, on the surface, nationwide interludes filled with mild anxiety; Panic is sifted through Instagram’s neat grid of artful homeliness, simmering bone broth, early bluebells, and the first refugees spied on lonely walks. The uncertainty of the tone makes these pieces move strangely, the damp childlike fear that creeps through the decision. Together they represent a real-time struggle to give language to a range of emotions that are painfully nameless for the time being.
“The Machine Stops” would become famous a century after its publication for supposedly envisioning technologies like social media – and the dangers involved – long before they appeared. In particular, it predicted computer interfaces and programs such as Skype that would allow us to communicate with people around the world without leaving our rooms. People live isolated in rooms, where they can access music and real-time video chats with one click; the Earth’s surface is uninhabitable, according to authorities, so people are advised to stay in their cozy rooms, which everyone has adapted to as their norm of normality. In this way, the story seems chillingly progressive, capturing vague but clear elements of the world we inhabit today, like an astronomer peering through a faintly clouded lens.
Scholars in Asian American Studies Can Identify and document xenophobia, and they can disseminate those findings to legal attorneys in real time. Media scientists can draw on their knowledge contamination films warn health organizations of harmful visual iconographies and propose alternatives. Literary scientists can determine how stories are used to spread disinformation, and they can advise health communicators on how to create compelling contradictions to challenge the conspiracy theorists’ fiction. Creative writers can draw on their narrative expertise to create compelling stories that help us think of a path forward and the steps we can take to get there – a “science fiction prototyping“For a pandemic reaction.
Curzio Malaparte is a phrase maker for everything – sensual phrases that linger in the imagination for a long time (“the sunshine of the sun”). Although he thought himself a thinker (and was quite jealous of Gide, Sartre and Camus’ fame), his statements were about ‘the French’ (‘France is the last homeland of intelligence’) or about communism or existentialism or about women are often confused or repetitive or banal or wrong, while his recording of a sensation or a bizarre anecdote or his memory of a strange sentence is always indelible, if not infallible.
This quarantine took me back to Burroughs, who claimed to believe – meaning he had no choice but to believe – that language was a virus. While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact pathology – accuracy was not Burroughs’ practice – a summary might look like this: language is a virus that crosses the species barrier of an alien civilization.
And here’s the week in books at Vox:
As always, you can keep up with all our book coverage by visiting vox.com/books. Enjoy reading!