Category Archives: literature

Adam Kirsch on writing and cultural appropriation

Just to show how ridiculous is the claim that writers should generally avoid producing fiction about “marginalized groups” unless they belong to those groups (see here, here and here re the Lionel Shriver affair), have a butcher’s at a new kerfuffle: that involving “Elena Ferrante,” an Italian author of wildly popular novels, especially the “Neapolitan Novels”, a series […]

Offended Guardian writer walks out of talk on “cultural appropriation” of fiction

Since it’s important to the article I’m going to mention, I note that its author, Yasmin Abdel-Magied, is a black Australian Muslim woman. Her piece in yesterday’s Guardian, “As Lionel Shriver made light of identity, I had no choice but to walk out on her,” is a long whine about how authors of one gender or […]

Name the famous writer!

Strolling by the discard box in front of the local used bookstore, Powell’s, I spotted a copy of the 1953 Harvard College yearbook: a compilation of that year’s activities, sporting events, and so on, with a list of clubs and organizations—all accompanied by photos. I picked it up and took it home to see if […]

Document found in which Shelley declared himself an atheist

Many of us know that the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) was an atheist, and some also know that he was one of the first “out” atheists in Britain. In 1811, while a first-year undergraduate at Oxford, Shelley published an inflammatory pamphlet, The Necessity of Atheism, (You can read it online here.) I couldn’t find out […]

Bad sex in fiction: the 2015 award

The strange but intriguing website Nothing In the Rulebook has an intriguing post highlighting the “Bad Sex in Fiction” award, described by Wikipedia thusly: Each year since 1993, Literary Review has presented the annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award to the author who produces the worst description of a sex scene in a novel. The […]

Philomena on Shakespeare (and drugs and global warming)

Hey, Brits, listen up: this Wednesday, at 22:00 London time (don’t kvetch about GMT or whatever they call it now), you can see a half-hour show on BBC 2: “Cunk on Shakespeare” (available at the link shortly after the show). I hope I can see it in the U.S. It appears that Diane Morgan once again appears as our beloved […]

Harry Potter and the Ivory Tower of Offence-Takers

by Grania Spingies Full  disclosure: I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan. I have read them all and enjoyed some more than others, but I think that J.K. Rowling’s adult novels are far superior. That said, there can be no doubt that her books for children have gripped (at a conservative estimate) the hearts and […]

Iran goes weapons-grade regressive: renews fatwa on Salman Rushdie

by Grania Iranian intellectuals and secularists must be shaking their heads in dismay at this news. A group of state-run media outlets in Iran have grouped together and raised an additional US$600,000.00 to renew the fatwa, originally declared in 1989, on the life of Salman Rushdie for the crime of writing a book that you […]

“Other ways of knowing”: Out of Africa

I’ve been in long-term “discussions” (a euphemism for “arguments”) with some people who claim that the humanities—in particular art, music, and literature—constitute “ways of knowing” that tell us facts about the universe either unattainable by science, unverifiable by science, or truths first revealed by literature and later verifiable by science. Often these arguments are made by […]

A reader comments on the value of literature and “ways of knowing”

I received an email from reader Geoff Howe about yesterday’s post on the value of studying literature, and I thought it was good enough to merit its own post: I think the article [the piece in Commentary by Gary Saul Morson] does a good job of encapsulating a major problem in society, one that I see […]