Literary Links: Gornick on Ferrante, The Novelistic Election and More


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. And since our audience (and we) love books in particular, we thought we would share a weekly roundup of some our favorite bookish writing from around the web. This week: the election (of course), Ferrante, the 1980s literary brat pack, and remembering children’s author Natalie Babbit.

Thomas Mallon muses on the potential for a fictive novel about the 2016 election at The New Yorker, hypothetically entitled “Presumptive” — and settles on Paul Ryan as the tragic centerpiece, a Shakespearean character undone by his own combination of Macbeth-like ambition and Hamlet-like indecision:

If the Trumptastrophe had a first substantial victim, not counting the sixteen dwarf-tossed primary opponents, it was Paul Ryan, destroyed from without and within by attempting to maintain his future viability. For weeks, we heard him say that he hoped to be able to endorse Trump, and received updates on his struggle to “get there,” an arrival he gave the impression would happen if he could get Trump to move a few decimal points his way on one budgetary matter or another, as if one’s ability to vote for Donald Trump depended on an exact mental alignment over Medicare Part D benefits. Each further inch down the slippery slope, Ryan looked less like Eddie Munster and more like Lucifer, until he “got there,” endorsing Trump on June 2nd and then sort of, maybe half but not really, taking it back when Trump began questioning the impartiality of Judge Gonzalo Curiel. In the end—and it probably will be the end of him—Ryan was back in the “Apprentice” boardroom: he’s with him. Or was.

At The Nation, the inimitable Vivian Gornick takes on the elusive Elena Ferrante, not uncritically, and it’s a worthwhile read. Exploring both Ferrante’s work and her anonymity, Gornick settles back into an analysis of the work itself:

Whatever the discrepancy between Ferrante’s actual upbringing and that of her characters, there can be no doubt about the central role that the women and men of Naples play in her writing imagination. For her, they are an emblematic population: alive with humor and cunning and, paradoxically, the employment of survival skills that, generation after generation, condemns them to endless repetition of their constricted lives. Of the women, she says: “They are cheerful and foul-mouthed, silent victims, desperately in love with males and male children, ready to defend and serve them even though the men crush and torture them…incapable of admitting, even to themselves, that, with that, they drive them to become even more brutish.”

Far from the slums of Naples, the literary brat pack of the 1980s — including Bret Easton Ellis and Donna Tartt — were the glamorous literati of their age. At Harper’s Bazaar, Jason Diamond explores the rise and fall of this media-anointed clique:

McInerney and Ellis were soaking up success. After the publication of Less Than Zero, the press made it seem like they were attached at the hip, reporting on their late nights out and comparing their books any chance they could, as they both centered around young, good-looking people doing drugs and living miserable lives, all lit by the neon glow of the early 1980s.

Tuck Everlasting author Natalie Babbit died this week. She was one of my favorites in elementary school and I’ve read several great obituaries for her, including this one at The New York Times :

Shortly after she became an author, she struggled to define what distinguished a children’s book. She decided it was “The Happy Ending” — not the saccharine happily-ever-after finale, but the hopefulness of childhood as contrasted with the pity expressed by adults who say they wouldn’t want to be young and “have to go through all that again,” by which they mean the hard lessons in compromise and the abandonment of one dream after another “down to what we have at last settled on as possible.”

The only bookstore in the Bronx, a Barnes and Noble near to where I once taught high school, is closing, and the borough is trying to figure out where to open another bookstore.