Without further ado, here are the things I’m reading and thinking about this week:
More Teachers Should Assign the Racy Popular Novels of America’s Past (The Atlantic)
This piece felt fortuitous since I’m up to my neck in programming for Banned Books Week at my library. I’m working on displays of classic books that have been challenged or banned, and I’m still completely flummoxed about why people are so crazy when it comes to things they object to in books. This piece is more of an interview with Phillip Gura, a professor who wrote Truth’s Ragged Edge: The Rise of the American Novel. But it’s still an interesting read, and perfect for this time of year.
Jennifer Weiner: I’m Glad the NYT is Finally Covering Commercial Fiction, and Sorry if I went too Far (Salon)
Look, I’m not necessarily Weiner’s biggest fan. I think what she’s done in the world of commercial fiction is admirable and awesome, and she’s certainly used social media to her advantage (just ask her). I’ve read a few of her books and they’re entertaining and light and exactly what they’re supposed to be. But this piece is really interesting, because she owns up to the fact that she went hard at the New York Times because of their refusal to cover “commercial fiction” in their book reviews.
But it raises some interesting ideas that I think about a lot as a book lover and as a librarian: book snobbery still exists and is a major roadblock in creating accessibility to readers. This is particularly true of books about women written by women. It’s a pervasive problem. I’m guilty of some book snobbery myself, but I work to be aware of it. This is an interesting think piece, at the very least.
Racist “Patriots” Want Me Dead (Salon)
This is a follow-up piece to one I linked to last week about the questioning of “Support the Troops” as a mindless form of patriotism. Since publishing that article, the author has received death threats and racist threats like you would not believe. This is an important piece, and it’s definitely worth your time to go read it. It reinforces the point of his first article. People, man.
Aaron Sorkin Gets More Sexist Every Year (Salon)
I’ve been pretty clear on where I stand on the whole Aaron Sorkin thing, I think. I kind of hate him. I think he’s written some great stuff, but I think it’s a sexist, misogynistic egomaniac who is so completely out of touch with the world that it’s almost laughable if it weren’t so scary. This piece from Salon is great for so many reasons, but this quote sums up much of what I find so contentious about Sorkin:
But Sorkin’s vision is of a world in which male hegemony isn’t just acknowledged but accepted, even relished, and in which women are always the object of male ambition or of lust. When allowed to speak for themselves, women consistently reveal themselves as being in desperate need of rescue.
The article dissects some of his projects to better prove this point, and it’s fascinating and discouraging all at once. Every time I read something about The Newsroom being “not that bad,” and my decision to avoid it wavers, I’m going to think of this and stick fast to it. I don’t need that condescension in my life.
When Comedians Walk Off, It’s the Crowd’s Fault (AV Club)
Kind of an interesting look at the culture of heckling and what it says about a crowd. This piece also looks at the comedy of Dave Chappelle, and how he’s handled hecklers since coming back onto the comedy scene. If you’re interested in live stand-up at all, this is worth checking out.
What did you read this week that you found particularly interesting?