Prestigious Laura Ingalls Wilder Award Renamed Over Racial Insensitivity

“Wilder’s books are a product of her life experiences and perspective as a settler in America’s 1800s,” the association’s president, Jim Neal, and the president of the children’s division, Nina Lindsay, said in the statement. “Her works reflect dated cultural attitudes toward Indigenous people and people of color that contradict modern acceptance, celebration, and understanding of diverse communities.”

.. In the 1935 book “Little House on the Prairie,” for example, multiple characters espoused versions of the view that “the only good Indian was a dead Indian.” In one scene, a character describes Native Americans as “wild animals” undeserving of the land they lived on.

.. “There’s this subtle but very clear fear generated throughout the books,”

.. the books could be used to educate high school or college students, but were inappropriate for young children.


How Nations Recover

I’ve been especially interested in the way Britain revived itself between 1820 and 1848. Its comeback has some humbling lessons for us today.

Britain was roiled by economic and demographic changes. There were financial crises, bad harvests and a severe depression. There was crushing inequality. The average life expectancy nationwide was 40, but in the industrial cities of Manchester and Liverpool it was around 28.

.. The Chartists cohered around The People’s Charter, which had six demandsincluding universal male suffrage, vote by ballot and equal electoral districts. In 1842, the Chartists presented a petition to Parliament with three million signatures.

.. Finally, there was the Anti-Corn Law League. This was the best organized and best funded pressure group in 19th-century Britain. It promoted free-trade legislation to reduce the power of the landed gentry, to make food cheaper for the working classes and to encourage international exchange and cooperation.

..  Britain was blessed by a stable parliamentary system and by a legislative culture that valued deliberation and debate. Political leaders in both parties understood that the winds of change were blowing and they had better initiate reforms if they wanted to head off a revolution.

Why economists need Tolstoy

Economists can tell you that sanctioning a market for kidneys would raise the supply — maybe save lives — but someone else has to weigh the moral implications of auctioning body parts to the highest bidder.

.. why practice economics if not to try to improve people’s lives?

.. Many of the questions that economists study, such as why birthrates are higher in some places, or why some countries developed earlier, or why some high school students do not apply to the best college they could get into, could be better understood through a cultural lens.

.. They skewer Gary Becker, a Nobel Prize winner, for postulating that all human behavior is “maximizing” — that is, the product of a rational, self-interested calculation. And that, therefore, economics is “a valuable unified framework for understanding all human behavior,” including whom to marry and divorce, whether to have kids, whom to befriend.

.. Literature develops a feeling for how people will behave in ways that economic models cannot.

.. You don’t need a narrative to explain the orbit of Mars (Newton’s laws will do just fine), whereas to assert that a shortage of bread caused the French Revolution, you do.

..  At Stanford, about 45 percent of the main undergraduate faculty are in humanities, but only 15 percent of the students.

.. Then why read Shakespeare? If the reason (as the academy espouses) is simply to deconstruct the authorial “message,” why not just teach the message? Thus, “Les Miserables” could be reduced to “Help the Unfortunate.” And “Hamlet”: Stop moping and do something! No, the reason we read novels is for the experience that the words inspire.

.. History sadly mimics economics in an attempt to systemize, to discover immutable laws. Explanations must be scientific and universal. Contingency or chance — a famine, the timely arrival of a genius or madman, a scientific discovery — are presumed irrelevant. Humanities, ideally, should wrestle with uncertainty. It is a discipline of contingent truths,



These Male Authors Don’t Mind if You Think They’re Women

With psychological thrillers told from a female point of view a hot genre, male writers find an ambiguous pen name doesn’t hurt; trying on a bra.

Is Riley Sager, author of the new thriller “Final Girls,” a woman?The writer’s gender-neutral name won’t answer the question. Neither will the author biography on the book’s back flap, which avoids male or female pronouns, or the book-jacket photo, which is nonexistent. The website for the novelist features trees against a hot pink sky and the author’s Instagram account includes shots of books, desserts, animals and fruity cocktails.

While it isn’t exactly a secret that Riley Sager is the author Todd Ritter, it is fine with him if some people assume he’s female. In fact, it is good for business.

 .. The problem for men: Some fans doubt the authenticity of the female narrator’s voice when it is delivered by a male author.
.. The world has changed since the Brontë sisters and the woman born Mary Ann Evans, writing as George Eliot, had to disguise themselves with masculine-sounding pen names to be taken seriously. Women hold a large share of the power in the reading public. Last year, women bought 59% of all fiction, according to NPD Books.
.. A 2014 Goodreads survey of 20,000 male and 20,000 female participants on the site found that of the 50 books published that year that were most read by women, 46 were written by women.

.. The stakes are high for male writers not to make mistakes that female readers would catch. S.J. Watson—Steve Watson—tried on a bra in his office

.. The book refers to the undergarment at least seven times. If he had messed up a reference to bra mechanics, he said, his mother, one of his first readers, would have told him.

 .. If readers assume he’s a woman, Mr. Strong said, it signals to him that he wrote a believable female narrator. “At almost every event, someone will say, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize you weren’t a woman,’ and I’m always pleased.”
.. Mr. Thomas​ adopted the pen name on the advice of his all-female publishing team but he didn’t set up social-media accounts ​for it because he didn’t want to flesh out the fake identity. “We didn’t overtly lie,” he said. ​“It’s a cutthroat industry.”

The Joy of Hate Reading

My taste for hate reading began with “The Fountainhead,” which I opened in a state of complete ignorance as bonus material for a college class on 20th-century architecture. I knew nothing of Ayn Rand or of objectivism.

.. What stuck was the abiding knowledge that I was not, nor would I ever be, a libertarian.

.. It was only by burrowing through books that I hated, books that provoked feelings of outrage and indignation, that I truly learned how to read. Defensiveness makes you a better reader, a closer, more skeptical reader: a critic. Arguing with the author in your head forces you to gather opposing evidence. You may find yourself turning to other texts with determination, stowing away facts, fighting against the book at hand. You may find yourself developing a point of view.

.. loathing is mixed with other emotions — fear, perverse attraction, even complicated strains of sympathy. This is, in part, what makes negative book reviews so compelling.

.. the authors were too credulous of certain research, and in ways that served their thesis.

.. It can be interesting, and instructive, when a book provokes animosity. It may tell you more about a subject or about yourself, as a reader, than you think you know. It might even, on occasion, challenge you to change your mind.

.. an even more stimulating excitement comes from finding someone else who hates the same book as much as you do

Our Don Quixote, Ourselves

Adrift in a time of tumultuous change, Cervantes invented fiction to help him digest and understand his world; and that fiction in turn helped give birth to ours”; that “Not only would it become the template for all novels to come, but it also became a keystone of Western intellectual culture”; and finally—take note, Silicon Valley book clubs—that the novel stands as “one of the greatest innovations in human history.” Thereafter, Egginton devotes himself to answering a dutifully gob-smacked question: “How did he do it?”

.. while the novel is “clearly an impregnable masterpiece,” it “suffers from one serious flaw, that of outright unreadability.”

.. Don Quixote is a sprawling, decadent mess of a book, written in purposely puffed up, self-satirizing prose. It’s also full of assorted digressions, false plot turns, random asides, authorial self-deprecations, writer-on-writer sniping, and extended plot diversions, including novella-sized interpolations of other chivalric tales that are themselves chockablock with more of all this same stuff. In other words, in its very scale and range, Don Quixote does not exclusively amuse, endear, awe, and beguile, which is what we have come to expect from a 400-year-old classic.

.. This impatience owes to more than my wanting always desperately to put the book aside and check my phone. It also comes from knowing that I only need to read the first eight chapters “to get it.” After all, it’s in those opening chapters that Cervantes establishes the crazy-making nature of his protagonist’s addiction to 16th-century Spanish novels of chivalry.

.. he became so convinced in his imagination of the truth of all the countless grandiloquent and false inventions he read that for him no history in the world was truer.”

.. he had the strangest thought any lunatic in the world ever had, which was that it seemed reasonable and necessary to him, both for the sake of his honor and as a service to the nation, to become a knight errant and travel the world … righting all manner of wrongs and, by seizing the opportunity and placing himself in danger and ending those wrongs, winning eternal renown and everlasting fame. 

..  novel’s difficulty lies not just in its size and form and style, the usual terms for latter-day readers finding fault with the book. In fact, Don Quixote’s difficulty actually owes to the reasonableness of Egginton’s proposition that we can find ourselves reflected in this book’s creation-cum-revelation of the modern mind in all of its advanced self-awareness. But if that’s the case, this means also finding evidence in the novel of all our most troublesome, even destructive capacities as moderns.


One of the Knight’s earliest good deeds, for instance, concerns a servant boy he finds tied to an oak tree, being whipped by his master. Quixote intervenes, reprimands the farmer, and orders the boy released and compensated for his suffering. The farmer agrees and asks that the boy come back to the house with him to get, you know, paid. The boy refuses to go, regardless of Quixote’s assurance that the farmer will comply not just out of fear that the Knight will punish him if he does not but also in natural deference to his authority and reputation: “And if you wish to know who commands you to do this, so that you have an even greater obligation to comply, know that I am the valiant Don Quixote of La Mancha, the righter of wrongs and injustices, and now go with God, and do not even think of deviating from what you have promised and sworn, under penalty of the penalty I have indicated to you.”

The boy gives way, the Knight rides off, and then the farmer grabs the boy and gives him “so many lashes that he left him half-dead.” Cervantes closes this episode: “In this way the valiant Don Quixote righted a wrong.” As far as the Knight is concerned, he has in fact done a good and noble deed, in keeping with his quest to bring justice and win fame. And as far as we can tell, he has just compounded a powerless young boy’s suffering. I think therefore I am, and you are what I say you are.

.. Egginton himself argues for a meaningful coincidence between Cervantes and Descartes, related to the crowning importance of perception to the security and integrity of one’s identity ..

.. Likewise, the novel’s hero can be laughed at, dismissed, and even denounced, but also pitied and admired on the exact same terms, all for trying to live his life according to a credo that everyone else around him knows to be false, pointless, risible, even dangerous.

.. “Cervantes pushed the envelope of every literary genre, parodying established styles and conventions along the way.” And so, in answer to the question driving this study, that’s “how he did it,” that’s how Cervantes created the book read by more people than any other, save the Bible.

.. The pressures of Cervantes’s private life offer lots of possible answers to the question of why he wrote it. But beyond the dreamy notion of a jail-cell inspiration, the more vexing possibility—vexing because it’s at once irritating and intimidating to writer and reader alike—that emerges by the end of the novel is that Cervantes wrote this simply because he wanted to, and he could, and so he did. Consider: in the novel’s closing pages, the Don has returned home following a genuine defeat in a brief battle against another knight. Quixote rejects all books of chivalry, comes to his senses, makes a good confession, and dies. His final words are an apology to the author of the novel itself and a request for forgiveness

The Man Who Invented Fiction review – what we owe to Cervantes

Recent high-profile studies have claimed that reading fiction can help strengthen empathy, and improve theory of mind.)

.. The splitting of perspectives – experiencing this “fiction” from within and without, with a multiplicity of differing understandings of the world – allowed Cervantes to explore moral questions without ever being moralistic; and it allowed him, too, to get past any censor on the lookout for seditious anti-national or anti-religious messages in an increasingly controlling state.