Literary Links: Ivanka’s Horrible Book, Trump and Artists, Feminist Dystopia


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: more literature and literary voices helps us deal with our new reality.

At The New Yorker, Jia Tolentino takes one for team America and read Ivanka Trump’s “terrible” memoir to discover a kind of moral vacuousness that now goes hand in hand with her family’s famous Brand.

When Ivanka was a kid, she got frustrated because she couldn’t set up a lemonade stand in Trump Tower. “We had no such advantages,” she writes, meaning, in this case, an ordinary home on an ordinary street. She and her brothers finally tried to sell lemonade at their summer place in Connecticut, but their neighborhood was so ritzy that there was no foot traffic. “As good fortune would have it, we had a bodyguard that summer,” she writes. They persuaded their bodyguard to buy lemonade, and then their driver, and then the maids, who “dug deep for their spare change.” The lesson, she says, is that the kids “made the best of a bad situation.” In another early business story, she and her brothers made fake Native American arrowheads, buried them in the woods, dug them up while playing with their friends, and sold the arrowheads to their friends for five dollars each.

If reading about Trumpian evil, from the most mundane to the most world-threatening, is causing artists to suffer from creative block, Diana Spechler say its okay (and normal) to be scared.

In her cult-classic self-help book The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, Julia Cameron theorizes that blocked artists are afraid—afraid of what their loved ones and colleagues might think, afraid of poverty, afraid of being frivolous or self-centered or simply bad at art. Add to that list: afraid because the president-elect rebukes free expression. Donald Trump has made it his personal undertaking to undo the New York Times, the Washington Post, Beyoncé, and the cast of Hamilton . (“The theater must always be a safe and special place,” Trump tweeted. To borrow one of his most eloquent rejoinders: “WRONG.”) His not-so-subtle message—that all writing, art, and opinions must meet his approval and massage his ego—is chillingly Stalinesque. He has cultivated other sources of fear, as well. “As an Iranian-American,” best-selling humor writer Firoozeh Dumas told me, “I feel like my platform of humor through shared humanity has been taken away. How I can be funny knowing that there are people who want me and my family to be registered?”

She has excellent ideas for reconnecting with creativity and finding a new normal, including accepting putting a current project aside to respond to emotions of rage and fear.

Dystopian novels are a hot topic right now for some strange reasons. At Jezebel’s the Muse, Stassa Edwards reviews a new addition to the genre, with a twist. She compares Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things with predecessors like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale an Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

The girls of Wood’s novel are in no dystopia. Instead, they are imprisoned by present policing of their bodies, the corrosive discrimination of political and economic systems that turns women’s bodies against them, rebuilding them as flesh and blood prisons. If this seems like a transparent analogy, it’s because it’s meant to be. Both Butler and Atwood dissect patriarchal oppression with the refined skill of a pointillist, constructing detailed futures in which our own oppression can be more clearly seen, yet Wood has little interest in delicate brushwork. Wood’s novel is all garish and bold brushstrokes.

Speaking of The Handmaid’s Tale, the star of the upcoming miniseries adaptation, Elizabeth Moss, talked to EW about the series, which arrives this Spring.

Margaret Atwood’s novel became an instant classic when it was first published in 1985, but in light of the current political climate, its themes feel more contemporary than ever. “We never wanted the show to be this relevant,” says star Elisabeth Moss from the Toronto set of the new Hulu series.

Neither did we, Elisabeth. Neither did we.

And last, for something a bit more stirring, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s long piece at The New Yorker is a beautifully-written call to action for literary and non-literary people alike. “Now is the time to burn false equivalencies forever. Pretending that both sides of an issue are equal when they are not is not ‘balanced’ journalism; it is a fairy tale—and, unlike most fairy tales, a disingenuous one,” she writes.