Category Archives: literature

Lionel Shriver on the new censorship

Don’t expect much today; I’m starting to take it easy on Saturday. After all, I’m retired, for crying out loud.  I will, however, call your attention to a new piece by author Lionel Shriver at Prospect Magazine, “Writers blocked: how the new call-out culture is killing fiction“. You’ll remember Shriver from two years ago, when, at […]

The voice of Joyce

I believe these are the only extant recordings of James Joyce reading his work. They’re on the Public Domain Review, and add up to about 12½ minutes. Even though they’re fragments, I listened to them because I wanted to hear his voice. To me he doesn’t sound Irish, but sort of a hybrid between Irish […]

Who in history would you like to dine with?

This question arose from my comment yesterday that I’d like to dine with Shakespeare, and it’s a question that’s comes up occasionally in magazines and on the Internet. But I’d like to see what readers think, and of course that means that I have to give my own answers to prime the pump. First, the […]

“To Kill a Mockingbird” restored in Biloxi curriculum, but parental permission required to read it

Two weeks ago I reported that Harper Lee’s superb novel To Kill a Mockingbird was removed from the eighth-grade curriculum of Biloxi, Mississippi after some parents complained that it contained the word “nigger”. (I can’t bear to write “the n-word” since everybody fills it in mentally anyway.) There were also reports about students laughing in […]

Kenan Malik defends cultural appropriation, gets demonized

British writer Kenan Malik, whom I like, has just waded into shark-filled waters in his short New York Times essay: “In defense of cultural appropriation.” Most of the “appropriation” he describes isn’t repugnant to many of us: the controversy about a white woman’s painting of Emmett Till, a black teenager murdered by Southern racists; Lionel Shriver’s assertion […]

Feminist author: girls shouldn’t read any books written by men

Over on the Penguin Books blog, author, journalist, and feminist Caitlin Moran explains why she think that young girls should not read any read any books written by men. Those books, she says, will infect women with Toxic Masculinity, erode their self-image, and denigrate them to the point they’re not prepared to deal with the opposite sex. When […]

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 […]