Link Gems

Link Gems is a weekly round-up of interesting articles and essays from around the web.

Well, that was the plan for this feature when I started it.  But, it’s been so long since I did one of these.  Good intentions and all…  The following links have piled up, patiently waiting for a blog post.

I’m back now from my break.  I will be clearing out my list of drafts of blog posts.  Please bear with me as odd things might happen, for instance a multiple-post day or a Short Story Monday on a Wednesday.  As the song goes, it’s my party and I’ll…

  • Henry James and the Joys of Binge Reading, an essay from The Millions. I had a passing interest in the works of Henry James prior to reading Colm Toibin’s The Master. Books about authors should make one yearn to read them.  And Toibin’s book did just that.   I sense a reading project coming on as I search out stuff about James on the net.
  • Wole Soyinka on the rebirth of Lagos

I have a problem with this.

I think one day we went to school and were given a grand shock. Someone – most likely a teacher – told us that poems had meaning. And this disclosure was monumental. Of course, we probably always thought that poems had meaning, but we never thought about it – not really. But the moment the teacher let us know that poems have meaning, everything changed.

While easily conceding that certain areas of highly specialized knowledge become the exclusive domain of English, most people are not so willing, nor able, to read novels, or indeed any prose that involves strong elements of style, in a foreign language. There they want to keep to their vernacular…  Yet at the same time, neither readers nor writers are happy any longer with the idea that a literary text’s nation or language of origin should in any way define or limit the area in which it moves, or indeed that a national audience be the first and perhaps only arbiter of a book’s destiny. We feel far too linked, and linked in the immediate present, not to want to see immediately what books are changing or at least entertaining the whole world. And if we are writers, of course, we want our own books to travel as widely as possible.

The obvious solution is translation.

Writers’ residences, fellowship facilities and workshops aren’t a one-person endeavour. They call for a certain kind of faith, hope, love and goodwill so that even when there’re no funds to run them, even when there’re no quick products (writing is not a quick fix. If you want quick goods make pancakes,) even when there’re products but one may not solely live off them, the support to engage in writing exists because you and someone care for it.

My fiancée left me, and I thought about villanelles.

I could not resist after this opening line.  And he goes on to discuss “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop.  Break my heart any day, any day 🙂

“I remember when Push came out, there was shock when people saw me – they’d say: ‘You’re not 16, you’re not obese. We thought this was your life story.’

“It was as though they thought this was some illiterate teenager’s life story and I had spoken it into a tape recorder, and some white editor had written it.”

She said: “It’s as if black artists are only able to tell autobiographical horror stories and don’t have an imagination. There was an idea I wouldn’t have been able to conceive of [the narrator] Precious’s life unless I had lived it;



  1. Great links! The article on translation was interesting and somewhat disturbing with an unexpected twist. I’m not sure that the alleged anglicism of other languages is at all a good thing, even if, as a reader of translations into English, I benefit.

    Does that count as a spoiler? I was so sceptical about the spoiler item, and now I am nearly convinced. How did that happen?! But I do have a broader definition of spoiler. I don’t think the plot matters so much, but when there is a surprising mechanism in a novel it can pose a dilemma. It’s exciting and you want to talk about it, but part of the excitement is in the joy of discovery and it’s a shame to deprive others of that pleasure. I’m sticking on the fence with this one.


    • Thanks for pointing out the broader definition of spoiler. I agree that plot doesn’t matter as much, but other devices and mechanisms do. Folks are more stuck on plot.


  2. i love that “spoiler” article because that’s how I read. But yeah, I’m not abandoning the “spoiler alerts’ In my posts because I know some people just HATE that. I think it just depends on how one enjoys approaching the text. I love knowing where an author is going.


    • That’s also how I read and I’m glad that more people read that way. However, we live under the tyranny of the spoiler alert folks. All the best.


  3. Hi Kinna,
    Thanks for the links! Lots of good stuff there. I particularly liked the Orwell essay (well I always like an Orwell essay). I found this part interesting: “Books on specialised subjects ought to be dealt with by experts, and on the other hand a good deal of reviewing, especially of novels, might well be done by amateurs. Nearly every book is capable of arousing passionate feeling, if it is only a passionate dislike, in some or other reader, whose ideas about it would surely be worth more than those of a bored professional. But, unfortunately, as every editor knows, that kind of thing is very difficult to organise.” With the internet, of course, a lot of this has come to pass. Newspapers have cut back on general reviewers and amateurs fill in a lot of the gaps through blogs, Amazon reviews, Goodreads, etc. I also liked the Wole Soyinka article on Lagos, describing the different stages it’s gone through, and the one on spoilers, which I found very surprising (but I won’t give away its conclusions in case anyone else wants to read it ;-))


    • It’s amazing to me that the Internet has changed our interaction of books for the good. There was much talk about the ill effects of the medium on books. For me, it has meant more engagement and a greater appreciation. This is due mostly to book bloggers and the space that they’ve carved out on the net. Soyinka remains Nigeria’s best cultural critic. The research on spoilers is quite illuminating. Mum is the word 🙂


  4. Ohhh: I’m off to read lots of these! Although not having read the spoiler article yet, I’m firmly in the ‘I don’t want to know things before the author tells me’ camp. I just wish there was a more elegant phrase than ‘spoiler alert,’ since I don’t think it ‘spoils’ so much as ‘changes’ the experience. 😉


  5. Wow, as always a truly fantastic collection of links to keep me reading for some time 🙂 Also really excited to see Alain Mabanckou on the list 🙂


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