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Milo Yiannopoulos’s Dangerous is an Amazon best-seller

Welcome to the weekly Vox book link roundup, a curated selection of the best online writing on books and related topics. Here’s the best the internet has to offer for the week of June 4, 2017.

  • At LitHub, Joe Kanon suggests writing in a library; specifically, the main branch of New York City’s public library. If you’re not in the city but plan to visit, it’s worth making time in your schedule to swing by:

The trick is to make your own privacy—a pen, a yellow legal pad, and your own cone of personal space and you’re there. And since everyone else at the long open tables wants privacy too, invisible boundary lines are drawn, a kabuki-like civility reigns, eyes averted. It’s true that occasionally you find yourself sitting opposite someone in a heavy overcoat (at the height of summer) writing in a notebook in block capitals about Jesus, but since he’s already somewhere private, he’s usually as polite as the others.

Nothing can quite extend a bookseller’s to-be-read pile of books at home (real or imagined) like a returns cycle. Let me explain: some books don’t sell. Let me start over. All parts of a bookstore must be curated, carefully and frequently, and this curation is in large part based on which books sell and which don’t. And while it’s easy to look at the hard numbers and fall back on the reassurance of sales histories, there is also admittedly an intangible subjectivity to the process—which, honest to god, is one of the biggest reasons I love my job.

Here is where a book reaches the bottom of the narrative ladder that, as in Black Beauty, describes life’s trajectory ever downward, unless, at the end sudden redemption plucks the unfortunate from final doom. I root through piles of superannuated World Book Encyclopedias and Ultimate Grill cookbooks and find what I am looking for but did not know I was. More than occasionally slightly mildewed, but that’s not always a disqualifier.

As soon as we die, we enter into fiction. Just ask two different family members to tell you about someone recently gone, and you will see what I mean. Once we can no longer speak for ourselves, we are interpreted. When we remember — as psychologists so often tell us — we don’t reproduce the past, we create it.

The “exchange” in cultural exchange suggests you give something in return for having taken something. If it’s culture that’s taken, then presumably what’s given back is the art. In which case the difference between appropriation and exchange, to be (maybe absurdly) logical about it, would have to lie with an assessment of the value of the art itself. Of course we can’t really quantify the value of what is taken or the value of the art, but that would be the logic.

Happy reading!

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