Monday News: the future of NYT books, men and women, Rushdie book on BBC
The ‘New York Times’ Books Desk Will Make You Read Again – This article reads like one long advertisement for the still-under-construction books section of the Times, which will apparently debut in November. Never mind the departure of Michio Kakutani (she took a buy-out!), and don’t mind the fact that they’re “slimming” down their reviews. It’s still going to be the best damn books section anywhere, dammit! Although they don’t say this, their “paradigm shift” appears to be less about critical engagement with books and more about marketing books to readers.
“It used to be that a book would come in and we’d say, ‘Should we review this or not?’” [Book Review editor Pamela] Paul said. “Now the book comes in and we say, ‘Should we cover this or not, and if so, what should that coverage be? What is the best way to tell this story, regardless of the medium?’”
Answering those questions means several different things, not the least of which is experimenting with new, non-review items, both in print and online. Two new columns Paul considers rousing successes are both in a question-and-answer format. One, John Williams’s author q&a “Tell Us 5 Things About Your Book,” runs in the Times’ daily Arts section each Monday. Another, Nicole Lamy’s book recommendation advice column “Match Book,” will move to print with the debut of the Book Review redesign. . . .
“We can maintain our core review coverage and also add some other elements that just provide some different entry points into the whole landscape of books,” Jones said. In other words, removing one book review from each issue to make room for a column like “Match Book,” which can recommend more books than a review because of its format, is hardly heralding the end of the book review at the Times—which, as Paul points out, still holds “the last freestanding newspaper books section in the country.” – Publishers Weekly
Toward a New Masculinity: Five Poets and the Politics of the Male Body – A very interesting essay in the University of Virginia’s Virginia Quarterly Review by novelist Porochista Khakpour, who indulged in a reading of men (authors and characters), perhaps as a remedy to the misandry she has been struggling with during the past year. It’s really quite a beautiful and touching project, as she renders it here, weaving through poetry by Chen Chen, Chiwan Choi, Danez Smith, Kaveh Akbar, and Alex Dimitrov, challenging herself and her readers “to see men, the ones who weren’t going to rescue us or get in our way, but who were going to sit—maybe even fight—alongside us for once.”
This year has challenged me to exist without hating men. Blame it on the pressures of two clicking and clashing patriarchal cultures—Iranian and American—and how they twisted and turned within the folds of the 2016 election. America traded feminism for racism and we got an entire regime devoted to bigotries of all sorts, where misogyny is well, king, you might say.
As a citizen I have rarely felt more powerless, but behind the pen I can perhaps fool myself that some work can be done. For a decade now, since the publication of my first novel, interviewers have asked me why I chose male protagonists in my fiction—Xerxes, the Iranian-Angeleno-New Yorker at quarter life in my first novel, Sons and Other Flammable Objects; Zal, the feral asexual boy dreaming of (hu)manhood in my second, The Last Illusion. Why did a male perspective seem to be of great comfort to me, they ask. Comfort. This astounded me. Were they reading my work? If likable women reign over prose’s terrain, as we are told, surely my unlikeable men could be seen for what they are, too? But it seemed they were asking less was I a champion of men and more was I actually a bit of a man. Without going too deeply into my life story with its cast of bad men, one simple answer I landed on for interviewers was this: I have an interest in fallen men, in masculinity compromised. I can see almost every problem on this planet linked to male fragility and toxic masculinity, so how can I not be interested? Too often nothing but men have been in the way of nearly all I could achieve. Virginia Quarterly Review
J.K. Rowling Defends Author After a Guy Mansplains Her Book to Her – And speaking of understanding (and misunderstanding) women and men, this unfortunate incident is powerful example of both and a lesson in the often unconscious power of identity-based bias. Font designer Erik Spiekermann made what appeared to be a trite and condescending correction to Laura Kalbag, who was announcing the release of her book on web accessibility. Check out Spiekermann’s timeline for the exchange, which includes quite a few unfriendly responses to the typographer, who since apologized for his comment.
On Friday, designer Laura Kalbag announced on Twitter that her first book was about to come out, Mashable reports. “If you missed it: I’ve written a book! It’s coming out very soon, sign up to get it first,” she wrote. Then, in one of the most technical, nitpicky corrections we’ve ever seen, designer and typographer Erik Spiekermann replied, “Actually, you wrote a text. It took a few other people and skills to make that into a book.” . . .
“If I saw a similar tweet from a man to another woman, I would probably call it mansplaining,” Kalbag told Teen Vogue. “As others have pointed out, he hasn’t tweeted the same thing to a man who has written a book. I don’t believe Erik chose to nitpick my language consciously because I am a woman, but sometimes our biases can reveal themselves in this way. I’m also aware that English is not his first language, so the tweet may not have come out exactly as he intended. All that said, what he called me out on wasn’t factually correct. In English, we do say ‘write a book.’ But it still made me question myself. Especially given his standing in the design industry. I felt really embarrassed.” – Teen Vogue
New BBC Dramatization of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children Now Streaming Free for a Limited Time – For almost the next month, you can watch this BBC adaptation here. And don’t forget about Open Culture’s 900 free audiobooks, which you can find here.
To mark the 70th anniversary of the Partition of India, an ambitious new dramatization of Salman Rushdie’s dazzling novel of love, history and magic. Saleem Sinai is born on the stroke of midnight on 15th August 1947, at the exact moment that India and Pakistan become separate, independent nations. From that moment on, his fate is mysteriously handcuffed to the history of his country. The story starts with Saleem’s grandfather, Aadam, in Kashmir in 1915. Dramatised by Ayeesha Menon. Starring Nikesh Patel, Abhin Galeya and Meera Syal. – BBC and Open Culture