Outside Reading — No Room for the Baker edition

no room

Why I Love Kids’ Books in Translation by Rivka Galchen

I recently listened to a podcast segment that was almost entirely comprised of the wonderful writers Rivka Galchen and Jia Tolentino chatting excitedly as they browsed through children’s’ section of a Brooklyn bookstore. There was such purity and poignancy to their appreciation of the books that stirred them as children, and it was strikingly free of nostalgia. In exploring the value of the books, the duo considered the literary mechanics and emotional impacts, affording the works the exact same inherent value any any revered tome anointed properly in the canon. A phase-shift contextualization was largely set aside in favor of evaluating these books as just books. Some of that tone carries over to this new essay by Galchen, written for Publishers Weekly, though there’s also plenty of retrospective child psychology self-analysis at play. With wonderful insight, Galchen mostly offers insights on the ways in which children’s books imported from other lands have their fantastical wonderment compounded. And, in a way, that applies to books for big kids, too.



Among the Moderate Chic at Bari Weiss’s Book Party by Boris Kachka

Writing for New York magazine, Boris Kachka mingles around a Manhattan party to commemorate the release of the first book by Bari Weiss, an intellectually suspect writer with a special talent for defending hideous men. In its simple recounting of the social event’s particulars, the article exposes the blithe detachment of all those assembled, the fussbudget fanciness shaped into a flimsy disguise of substance. The most telling element of the article is the repeated demurrals of those asked about Weiss’s more controversial views, further proof that membership in the club of elite opinion-flingers is more important than the value, weight, and impact of the actual opinions.


Outline (2014) by Rachel Cusk


The plot of Rachel Cusk’s Outline — the first novel in a trilogy — can be describe in the barest of terms: A woman travels to Greece in order to teach a writing class, encounter others on her trip. On that frame, Cusk drapes the most elegant, beautiful tapestries of thought and language. Stories are told, exposing the characters through what is and isn’t said, and the small, brutal challenges — and, with less frequency, the tiny, fine graces — of merely existing in the world burble into sight. Cusk’s constant invention and deft, brisk structuring combine with an absolute command of tone to create the sort of writing that makes me a little embarrassed that I ever engage in the act of jumbling words together. It’s like making a three-orb snowman only to turn around and discovery someone else nearby has whipped up a reasonable replica of Elsa’s ice palace using the same tools and materials.

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