"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life:
The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish
fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable
heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood,
unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves
The July 21st issue of The New Yorker, the one with the controversial Obama cover, has some interesting articles in it that make it worth going beyond that cover. Besides a very good profile of Obama's political roots in Chicago, there's another entitled The Lion and the Mouse.
This fascinating piece tells the story of the battle between E.B. White and Anne Carroll Moore over his first book written for kids, Stuart Little. Moore was the woman who arguably opened the doors of libraries in this country to children, and who definitely did so in New York. Her tastes pretty much controlled what would be successful in children's literature for years. White's book didn't meet her idea of what was acceptable and she tried to kill its publication, keep it out of libraries, and ban it from schools
Obviously, she lost eventually. White had his wife on his side besides his own formidable skills as a writer. Katharine Sergeant Angell worked at The New Yorker with him as fiction editor, rising to quite possibly the highest position any woman held in publishing in the country at the time. When White insisted on moving to Maine she gave up the position, but she continued to review children's literature from Maine, reading hundreds of titles a year. So she was in a position to promote Stuart Little and did so. But Moore was able to block White from good consideraton for the Newbery Award.
But don't take my word for any of this - go read the article!
One of the writers I've long aspired to emulate has died. The New York Times carried the obituary of William W. Warner yesterday. His book Beautiful Swimmers has been a favorite of mine since at least the 80s, both for its subject matter (the blue crabs of Chesapeake Bay and the watermen who harvest them) and his writing style. I never knew I wanted to know so much about crabs until I read it. As for the quality of writing, it won a Pulitzer Prize. Not too shabby for a first book...
I first heard about Warner from William Least Heat-Moon (William Trogdon), who lived in my town in Missouri at the time and taught at the university where I worked. After dozens of rejections of his first book, Blue Highways, he said he decided to figure out who was publishing books in the same spirit as his. He settled on Warner's book and reached out to Warner's editor. The editor was on vacation, so Trogdon persuaded his assistant that Warner had referred him figuring that the assistant wouldn't verify that. The assistant felt he or she had better read the manuscript if Warner thought it was good. The rest is history - it spent nearly a year on the NYT bestseller list.
Basic premise: people eliminate potential mates based on their choices in reading. Subpremise: women are choosier in this regard because they read more. One said, “It’s really great if you find a guy that reads, period,” although another said, "If I went over to a man’s house and there were those books about life’s
lessons learned from dogs, I would probably keep my clothes on.”
The claim is, "Rare is the guy who’d throw a pretty girl out of bed for revealing her imperfect taste in books." Not that the author takes a solely hetero view: Augusten Burroughs tells of his horror in meeting a guy for a date who was carrying a worn copy of Proust by Samuel Beckett. “If there existed a more hackneyed, achingly obvious method of
telegraphing one’s education, literary standards and general
intelligence, I couldn’t imagine it.”
I'll fess up to a certain amount of snobbery in this regard. Back when I used to peruse match.com on a regular basis, anyone who listed The Da Vinci Code among her books last read was right out. And that particular standard appears in the Times piece as well.