THE NORWEGIAN NOVEL THAT DIVIDED A FAMILY AND CAPTIVATED A COUNTRY


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Reality literature.

Remember how divisive reality television was, before it became just television? In Norway, an intense debate is taking place about virkelighetslitteratur, or “reality literature,” a putatively fictional strain of writing that draws on identifiable characters and events. Critics of reality television complained that it was overproduced; the argument against reality literature is that it is insufficiently artificial, exposing and misrepresenting people who never consented to be a part of it. The country’s most flagrant transgressor of the code of plausible disclaimability is Vigdis Hjorth, whose prickly, persuasive novel “Will and Testament” came out in Norway in 2016, and has just been published in English, by Verso. Earlier this month, the translation, by Charlotte Barslund, was long-listed for the National Book Award for Translated Literature.

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Lauren Collins — The New Yorker

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To Catch A Thief: A Rare Book Expert on His Literary Obsessions


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Collectors Weekly: How do you determine the rarity of a book?

Sanders: It’s the old law of supply and demand. From 1920s to the 1940s, Idaho Press and Caxton Press published a lot of Vardis Fisher’s limited edition, signed Morocco-leather-bound books, and they produced tiny editions of as few as 10 copies, but they’re not books that anybody cares about. They might be really hard to find, but no one wants them. So on a rarity scale, it’s hard to get much rarer, but you’re not going to have the same success selling even Vardis Fisher’s books versus limited signed Steinbecks and Hemingways.

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Maribeth Keane and Anne Galloway — Collectors Weekly

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Little Women Goes to War


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Even before it opened, the film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel had taken on heavy sociological and political significance.  Amy Pascal, the movie’s producer, had tweeted that men were not attending screenings of the Greta Gerwig–directed movie due to “unconscious bias” against women. Another Hollywood feminist VIP, Melissa Silverstein, jumped in: “I think it’s total, fully conscious sexism and shameful. The female story is just as universal as the male story.” The media were off and running: “Little Women has a Little Man problem,” Vanity Fair announced. “Men Are Dismissing Little Women: What a Surprise,” was the snarky title of a New York Times column.

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Kay S. Hymowitz — City Journal

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The Fake Indian Princess Who Conned Marlon Brando into Marriage


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THE YEAR WAS 1957. He was the king of Hollywood, having won an Oscar for On the Waterfront (1954). She was a rising star with blue blood, an Indian princess, having played the survivor of a plane crash in The Mountain, starring Spencer Tracy. Together, they made a beautiful couple, with the world seemingly at their feet. That was until Marlon Brando realised that Anna Kashfi, the woman he had married, was actually Joan O’Callaghan, a Welsh butcher’s assistant who owed her exotic looks to her Anglo-Indian ancestry rather than a royal lineage. By 1959, they were divorced.

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Kaveree Bamzai — Open

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Chaos Will Set You Free


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Gina Apostol’s Insurrecto

Credits roll. Gina Apostol’s Insurrecto—a novel about two women who make a film about the 1901 Balangiga Massacre, grappling with the uneven legacy of the Philippine-American War—ends on the note of an infernal karaoke. At the stroke of midnight, we find the protagonists, Magsalin and Chiara, looking on as Magsalin’s three uncles warble over a melodramatic backing track, their voices sweetened by the microphone reverb. The tune is by Elvis, whose baduy hip swinging, macho tremolo, and matchless popularity across the archipelago have made him an honorary Filipino if there ever was one. Only this time, the uncles have swerved the obvious belters like “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock,” picking instead the baroque-country anomaly “Suspicious Minds.” The song’s lyrics—We’re caught in a trap / I can’t walk out / because I love you too much, baby—become Insurrecto’s own refrain, capturing the deranging, recursive relationship between colonized and colonizer.

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Alex Quicho — The New Inquiry

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In love with the process of writing


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A needull original.

It is one of those days when you are in a strangely good mood in the morning. And you feel the itch to write.

I have recently started listening to “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles on Audible during my office commutes. Amor worked in the investment profession for 20 years before taking to full time writing. This is his second novel. As you keep getting older, you start re-calibrating your dreams. You try to find examples of people who have done it who were in a similar or worse situation than you. It gives you hope. And Amor gives me hope that someday I will be able to write.

I love the entire experience of writing. I like everything about it. The solitude, the rigid chair and desk, the smell of fresh ink on paper and the ink flowing from your fountain pen.

It is pure magic. You are able to communicate your most abstruse thoughts to others by etching out symbols on paper. And your thoughts might survive and be read and understood by someone thousands of years later.

Such a feeling of wonder!

The Swimming Pool Library


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Interesting and absurd,

“The Swimmer”: a jovial middle-aged Westchester resident named Ned “Neddy” Merrill, gin-drunk in his friend’s backyard, announces his intention to swim home by way of the fifteen private (and one public) pools that punctuate the properties between himself and his Bullet Park mansion. This setting is powerfully Cheeveresque, to the extent that Mad Men—which shook down many of Cheever’s stories for tone and content—located the Drapers’ Ossining residence on Bullet Park Road, a fictional street named for Cheever’s 1969 novel, Bullet Park. In “The Swimmer,” Ned’s impetus seems mostly romantic; a way of leaving the party in style, reassembling the built waterscape into something natural. “He seemed to see, with a cartographer’s eye, that string of swimming pools, that quasi-subterranean stream that curved across the county.” There’s no good reason for Ned to do this, other than the fact that he wants to, and believes he can.

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Naomi Skwarna — Hazlitt

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