Tuesday News: Zadie Smith, defending banned books, Chinese subway book project, and “how the world reads”
Zadie Smith on the Politics of Fiction – Interesting interview with Zadie Smith on how much of today’s fiction provides readers with the opportunity to both escape and be “immersed” in current social and political realities. When asked if fiction writers can make readers see things from a different perspective, she opines:
“I guess I look at it historically,” Smith replied. “I think of what happened to writers, or at least British writers, after the second world war.” Those writers became, essentially, politicized: Their times were simply too interesting for them to be anything else. “Writers who are, by temperament, not political writers find themselves in these situations,” Smith said, and they then have little choice but to become, in their way, political actors. Take E.M. Forster, one of Smith’s role models as a writer (On Beauty, she has said, was an “homage” to Howard’s End). “In peaceful times,” Smith noted, he “was not a man to stand up, not a man to make an argument.” But Forster did not live, finally, in peaceful times. So “he ended up on the radio having to speak in a way that he was not quite used to speaking. And I think he did a very effective job. But it was interesting to watch. In another life, he would have been much quieter.” – The Atlantic
Kids explain how banned and challenged books helped them and even saved their lives – While we know that some of the most hotly debated and controversial books generally incite strong reactions in their readers, it’s easy for the way people are reading to get lost in the din of raucous contestation. For teen readers, in particular, how fiction engages with the process of maturation and social development is often argued about, but not necessarily from the teen reader perspective.
Ironically, some of the most frequently challenged books are the very books that young readers say are especially important and meaningful to them. Unfortunately, their views are rarely heard in the over-heated debates that often accompany book challenges. Instead, the adults – parents, school administrators, and school board members – make decisions about what kids should read without always appreciating how books with “controversial” content help young people learn and mature.
To explore the significance of controversial books for young readers, we asked authors of frequently challenged books to share messages they’ve received from their readers. So far, eight authors whose books we’ve defended – frequently, in some cases – have shared letters and messages they’ve received from readers: Chris Crutcher, Matt de la Peña, emily danforth, Ellen Hopkins, Lois Lowry, Wes Moore, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, and Rainbow Rowell. – Boing Boing
Emma Watson-inspired book-sharing drive stumbles in China – Interesting article on how cultural differences matter when it comes to how people read and acquire books. Distributed by a company called The Fair, the effort is aimed at boosting leisure reading in China and was accomplished when one of the company’s founders contacted Watson (whose agent apparently facilitated donation of at least some of the 10,000 books distributed at public transit stations in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou). But the campaign has encountered resistance to both the concept and the books themselves, some of it focused on whether it will work and why it is being attempted.
Some books were left untouched because passengers thought they had been left there by people wanting to save the seats; some books were taken away by cleaners; people also complained that they couldn’t get to the books because the carriages were too crowded.
Shanghai Metro has urged passengers not to participate during peak hours, saying that the campaign could affect commuters. Guangzhou Metro also said it might also disrupt public order.
But many social media users took issue with the motives of the book-sharing drive itself, criticising it as an eye-grabbing marketing event that did little to encourage reading. – BBC News and Sixth Tone
INFOGRAPHIC: How the World Reads – I am generally very wary of infographics like this, but I do like Electric Lit, so I will let you make up your own minds about its value.
Did you know that people in India read an average of 10.4 hours a week? Or that regular readers are 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Syndrome? This handy infographic from FeelGood puts a bunch of different interesting facts together in one infograhpic. Check it out… and then go read a book! – Electric Literature