June 8, 2018
Come Go With Saturday
by Melville House
Well, that was a week. A hell of a week, rife with news — much of it bad, some of it good, seemingly all of it very intense. We’ve rolled with it as best we could, and now, at long last, we find ourselves in the promised land: Saturday. Let’s take stock of where we’ve been:
- Michael Seidlinger shared some recent findings that reading is, in fact, an excellent way to ward off dementia.
- Taylor Sperry sang a ballad to the unionization of the staff of the New Yorker! Boom!
- Michael Barron has offered us three excellent explainers on the Trump / Russia affair: one on the Magnitsky Act, one of the Russians who met with Paul Manafort, Don Trump, Jr., and Jared Kushner at Trump Tower in 2016, and one on the people caught up in Manafort’s orbit — including the freshly-indicted Konstantin Kilimnik.
- Tom Clayton boosted a message from Irish novelist Marian Keyes — women are funny, whether they’re winning the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize in proportional numbers or not.
- Stephanie DeLuca threw an exuberant party to celebrate the abolition of overdue fines in the Baltimore library system!
- Ian Dreiblatt laughed at a really, really funny joke Ted Cruz cracked about James Patterson and Bill Clinton’s tour to promote their very bad collaborative novel.
- Nikki Griffiths finally broke the code of silence surrounding a British judge’s order that a jury read a defendant’s book explaining her relationship to her sister’s now-defunct Jerusalem artichoke garden.
- Ryan Harrington ducked into a phone booth and prepared to respond to the Library of Congress’s recent acquisition of its largest-ever boatload of comic books.
- Alex Primiani wrote about Vogue staffer Yvonne Bannigan, accused of stealing more than $50,000 from her boss. Dang!
- Susan Rella was told not to get cocky. But guess what? She got cocky.
- Simon Reichley congratulated Books for Africa on thirty years of sending more than forty million books to every single country in Africa. Africa. Africa. Africa.
It was also a complete pleasure to publish:
- Some reflections by Jason Heller, author of the brand-new Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded, on how, rather than take no for an answer, he parlayed a minor rejection into publishing the book he’d been born to write. “When David Bowie died suddenly on January 10, 2016, so did a part of me.” Damn.
There were, as ever, a couple stories we just didn’t get to:
- In recent years, we’ve extensively covered the case of Gui Minhai, the Swedish bookseller extralegally abducted and detained by the Chinese government, apparently as punishment for his activities publishing pulpy books of political gossip in Hong Kong — where, to be clear, the practice is legal. In one of the broadest-based and most public calls for Gui’s freedom to emerge from his home country, this week thirty-seven different Swedish dailies published an urgent call for his release, signed by more than forty prominent politicians, intellectuals, and celebrities.
- The fiercely admired Croatian author Daša Drndić has died in Rijeka, several years after being diagnosed with cancer. Drndić’s work has been widely praised for its uncompromising documentation of political atrocity. In a recent interview with Dustin Illingworth at the Paris Review, Drndić memorably commented, “Recently in Charlottesville, but throughout Europe and beyond, the extreme right is approaching, fortunately still on tiptoe and in les petits pas, which of course does not make it less dangerous. There are no small fascisms, there are no small, benign Nazisms. That is what I try to talk about in my books, the importance of remembering.” Her books included The Way to Saturday, April in Berlin, and Belladonna.
- We’ll have more to say in the coming days, but for now, it is impossible not to mention the devastating news of Anthony Bourdain’s death. Bourdain, deeply beloved, was the self-described “Chuck Wepner of chefs,” adored for his eloquence and sincerity, his sense of wonder, his staunch refusal to go along with bullshit, his sweetness and decency, his commitment to a more just vision of society, and his willingness to tell the truth about America’s restaurant kitchens. And while he’s often thought of as a famous chef, it was really as a writer that he rose to prominence. His landmark 2000 memoir Kitchen Confidential forever changed how we thought about the restaurant business (and helped inspire one Melville House title). His suicide in France at the age of sixty-one has shocked the world, provoking moving responses of many kinds. We’ll be covering it in greater detail over the coming days. Here’s wishing him vongele in heaven.
A few years back, we covered Israel’s weird and short-lived “Law for the Protection of Literature and Writers,” whose provisions “set strict controls on discounts for new books, banned store-display deals between publishers and sellers, and established a floor for author royalties.” As we also noted, the repeal of the law proved a boon to book sales. Now, it appears, the nation is considering re-instating the law. Not everyone in the country is chuffed.
- Scholars have discovered a disturbing passage apparently edited out of Maria Campbell’s Halfbreed shortly before its initial publication in 1973. While it may be unfamiliar to many in the US, Halfbreed is considered a watershed of indigenous literature in Canada, and is widely taught in schools throughout the country. In the book, Campbell, a Métis woman originally from Saskatchewan, describes her own development with powerful candor. In the rediscovered passage, Campbell describes being sexually assaulted by members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Current staff at the book’s publisher, McClelland & Stewart, have expressed dismay to learn about the edit, and explained that no current staff had any involvement in it. They’re considering a re-release of the book with the troubling material restored, pending, among other things, discussions with Campbell, now seventy-eight.
- One interesting—and very upsetting—takeaway from the mixed response to Reporter, the new memoir by legendary journalist Seymour Hersh. In her review for the New Republic, Josephine Livingstone writes that in 1974, “Hersh heard that Nixon’s wife Pat was in hospital after being punched by her husband. It was not an isolated occasion. He did not report on the story… Hersh was ‘taken aback’ by the response from women fellows, who pointed out that he had heard of a crime and not reported it. ‘All I could say,’ Hersh writes, ‘is that at the time I did not—in my ignorance—view the incident as a crime.’”
- This just in: reading is good for children!
We published one book this week:
And finally: it is Saturday, and there’s only one thing that can fully assuage our fear that the week may sneak past the guards and start itself up all over again: a cartoon. Since three days ago marked the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, this is probably as fine a time as any to revisit Ward Kimball’s Escalation, which memorably skewers Lyndon Johnson, the president RFK would have succeeded. Think of this the next time our current infant-in-chief whines that no president’s ever been given a harder time than him.
That’s that — keep cool, stay hydrated, and meet us back here Monday morning, when there will surely be much for us all to talk about.