What obstacles are in the way of reading anything of any length today, and how has the novel responded to these competitors for readers’ attention? At the New York Review of Books, Tim Parks considers the effects of the problem “we all know”—that “every moment of serious reading has to be fought for, planned for” because “the mind . . . is overwhelmingly inclined toward communication or, if that is too grand a word, to the back and forth of contact with others.” Not only are we constantly interrupted, we want to be interrupted. Contemporary novels have accordingly adopted a “battering ram quality . . . an insistence and repetition that perhaps permits the reader to hang in.” Books of “elegant, highly distinct prose, of conceptual delicacy and syntactical complexity” will grow fewer, and be replaced by those in short sections, “offering more frequent pauses where we can take time out.” Meanwhile, big, elaborate, popular novels “will be ever more laden with repetitive formulas, and coercive, declamatory rhetoric to make it easier and easier, after breaks, to pick up, not a thread, but a sturdy cable.”
Jacqueline Rose surveys no fewer than six books about mothers at the London Review of Books, and concludes that something is missing from the bunch: a story in which “the acute pleasure of being a mother would be neither a guilty secret, nor something enviously co-opted by bullies—‘You will be happy!’—but instead would be allowed to get on quietly with its work of making the experience of motherhood more than worth it.”
The New Inquiry’s latest issue is on “Queens.” “If the queen is the pinnacle, she is also the limit,” asserts the editor’s note. “If she is an exception to the general subordination of women, she proves the male rule.”
Al Jazeera unveils a digital video news channel.
A strategy to fend off unwanted admirers: Give out the number (669) 221-6251 to a guy, and any text he sends will receive a response quoting bell hooks’s work. Pass off the digits as your own, say the automated number’s anonymous creators, “if you’re in a dicey situation, afraid to give out your personal cell phone number or outright reject someone.”
A new journalism cooperative, Deca, brings together nine writers and editors to edit, promote, and publish one another’s work. Members will split revenues from stories sold through its new app and on Amazon.