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News, Notes, Talk

Gillian Anderson wants to hear all about your sexual fantasies.

Jonny Diamond

February 3, 2023, 10:34am

Yup. The recent star of the absolutely charming series Sex Education is collecting the sexual fantasies of women as part of her plan to reprise Nancy Friday’s 1973 book, The Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies. Friday’s book, which was groundbreaking at the time, collected (anonymously) the deepest, darkest sexual desires of women in an effort to demonstrate that it’s not just men who have rich inner erotic lives (duh).

Anderson, who will be doing her updated version of The Secret Garden for Bloomsbury, wrote in an essay for The Guardian that she:

wants women across the world, and all of you who identify intrinsically as women now – queer, heterosexual and bisexual, non-binary, transgender, polyamorous – all of you, old and young, whatever your religion, and married, single or other, to write to me and tell me what you think about when you think about sex. Whether it’s when you’re having it by yourself or with a partner, or with more than one. Tell me. Fantasies, frustrations, explorations, the forbidden, childhood, sounds, fetishes, guilt, insatiability. Fifty years on, the boundaries have been erased, no more so than in our own sexuality: BDSM, the modern meaning of gender etc, anything is up for grabs. Are women still the silent sex? I suppose that is one of the things we’re going to find out.

Here’s the actual solicitation, if you feel so inclined.

A few more suggestions of what to say to a friend whose book you haven’t read.

Jessie Gaynor

February 2, 2023, 1:50pm

This morning, The Cut published its definitive guide to contemporary etiquette, from ghosting to tipping to navigating varying levels of COVID caution. The list contained plenty of fascinating and discourse-generating takeaways (though I haven’t yet seen anyone address the wild revelation that former Vogue editor Lauren Santo Domingo believes one should “Never ask your guests to smoke outside.”) And for the purposes of Book Twitter, the very first rule—“You don’t have to read anyone’s book”—proved to be the most controversial of all.

To be clear, the substance of the rule—“Life is finite. We can’t be expected to spend all our time metabolizing content by friends or friends of friends.”—is perfectly sound. It was the suggestion of what to say to a recently published friend whose work you haven’t read that raised some eyebrows: “[S]ay something about how impressive it is that they’ve created something in the first place. ‘What a feat!’ (with a cheerful hand gesture) is always effective.”

As a person with a book coming out soon, I can tell you that there is no hand gesture cheerful enough to make What a feat! a thing I would want to hear from a friend. Or even a friend of a friend. If someone said What a feat! to me, I would absolutely assume they had read the book and hated it, and I would think about it for the rest of my life. Which isn’t to say I expect everyone I know to read my book! (Only everyone I’ve ever dated.) I do, however, have some suggestions for less-devastating deflections to offer:

• “Ah, I’m so glad you reminded me to order it!” (Here you must take out your phone and either pretend to order it or—better!—actually order it. Most people care more about you ordering it than reading it anyway.)

• “My copy is sitting on my bedside table! I’m so excited to read it!” (Again, you bought it! Great job! This one is slightly dishonest if you don’t plan on reading the book ever, but really, who knows what the future holds?)

• “You published a book! Amazing! But how are you doing?” (From what I understand, releasing a book is a real whirlwind, so focusing on the author’s mental state rather than the work itself is akin to asking a new parent about themself rather than the kid.)

• “Do you ever sleep?” (Okay, this one is similar to “What a feat,” I’ll admit, but I think focusing on the actual sacrifice required makes it slightly less condescending. Plus, it’s a kindness to give someone a conversational opening in which to discuss their exhaustion.)

• “I’m seeing it everywhere!” (Could be a lie, but it’s a kind lie!)

• “I’ve been bragging to everyone that I actually know you!” (Hopefully, this will make your friend feel proud enough that they won’t care that you have expressed no interest in buying or reading their book.)

• “HOLY SHIT YOU WROTE A BOOK!” (with an exuberant hand gesture).

Hey, when in doubt, lead with overwhelming enthusiasm!

17 paperbacks coming out this February.

Katie Yee

February 2, 2023, 11:04am

All hail the paperback release.

*

Free Love

Tessa Hadley, Free Love
(Harper Perennial, February 7)

The HarperCollins Union has been on strike since November 10, 2022. Literary Hub stands in solidarity with the union. Please consider donating to the strike fund.

“The stories of break and repair in this novel are wonderfully unpredictable.”
–Minneapolis Star Tribune

Jessamine Chan, The School for Good Mothers
(Simon & Schuster / Mary Sue Rucci Books, February 7)

“Jessamine Chan’s infuriatingly timely debut novel, The School for Good Mothers, takes this widely accepted armchair quarterbacking of motherhood and ratchets it up to the level of a surveillance state … chilling … clever.”
–The New York Times

Weike Wang, Joan Is Okay
(Random House, February 7)

“Wang has created a compelling character, utterly distinct, and the novel is carried by her dispassionate, clear-eyed, and often drily amusing narration.”
–Harper’s

Kris Manjapra, Black Ghost of Empire

Kris Manjapra, Black Ghost of Empire
(Scribner, February 7)

Black Ghost of Empire is a historical, literary masterpiece, which feels like the wrong word to describe a book so tangibly useful and appropriately terrifying.”
–Kiese Laymon

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

Isabel Wilkerson, Caste
(Random House, February 14)

“A trailblazing work on the birth of inequality … Caste offers a forward-facing vision. Bursting with insight and love, this book may well help save us.”
–O, the Oprah Magazine

Courtney Maum, The Year of the Horses: A Memoir

Courtney Maum, The Year of the Horses
(Tin House, February 14)

“Maum’s journey of healing and salvation in reconnecting to equine culture—including riding lessons and pursuing competitive polo—is wittily engaging and uncompromisingly forthright.”
–Shelf Awareness

groundskeeping

Lee Cole, Groundskeeping
(Vintage, February 14)

“Cole has a sharp eye for the way physical surroundings reflect their inhabitants’ characters and circumstance.”
–The Washington Post

Leonard Mlodinow, Emotional: How Feelings Shape Our Thinking

Leonard Mlodinow, Emotional
(Vintage, February 14)

“Most of this smart, trim volume is about the science of emotion rather than how to use it, but he doesn’t miss the opportunity to dole out advice and provide opportunities for self-reflection.”
–The Wall Street Journal

Anne Tyler, French Braid
(Vintage, February 21)

“Captivating … The rich melody of French Braid offers the comfort of a beloved hymn.”
–The Washington Post

Lucy Foley_The Paris Apartment

Lucy Foley, The Paris Apartment
(William Morrow, February 21)

The HarperCollins Union has been on strike since November 10, 2022. Literary Hub stands in solidarity with the union. Please consider donating to the strike fund.

“With characters suspicious and unlikable in their own way and a fun twist, you’re in for a dark and moody escape.”
–NPR

Jeanette Winterson, 12 Bytes
(Grove Press, February 21)

“Through well-paced and articulate prose, Winterson makes granular tech know-how remarkably accessible … This is full of insight.”
–Publishers Weekly

in love_amy bloom

Amy Bloom, In Love
(Random House, February 21)

“Bloom has a talent for mixing the prosaic and profound, the slapstick and the serious, which makes the book, despite its depressing subject matter, a pleasure to read.”
–USA Today

noviolet bulawayo glory

NoViolet Bulawayo, Glory
(Viking, February 28)

“An absurd yet captivating examination of themes such as toxic masculinity, hero worship, and performative change.”
–TIME

Sarah Moss, The Fell

Sarah Moss, The Fell 
(Picador, February 28)

“The astonishing thing is that Moss can write so compassionately about human frailty while her own work is as close to perfect as a novelist’s can be.”
–The Sunday Times

Pankaj Mishra, Run and Hide

Pankaj Mishra, Run and Hide
(Picador, February 28)

“Mishra is a masterful eyewitness to the modern world, equally unafraid of nuance, earnestness and absurdity.”
–San Francisco Chronicle

Sara Nović, True Biz

Sara Nović, True Biz
(Random House, February 28)

“A coming-of-age story that explores the complexities of community and the ways in which language defines us.”
–Kirkus

marlowe

John Banville, Marlowe
(Holt McDougal, February 28)

“It’s vintage L.A., toots … The results are Chandleresque, sure, but you can see Banville’s sense of fun.”
–The Washington Post

The new adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s The Power, starring Toni Collette, looks great.

Jonny Diamond

February 1, 2023, 3:03pm

As you can see in the trailer below, the long-destined adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s 2016 novel, The Power (read an excerpt here) looks fantastic, not least because it stars the divine Toni Collette.

I’m glad this one is a series (on Amazon Prime) and not a feature-length, as the nuances of Alderman’s story of supernatural teen-girl empowerment should not be crammed into an hour and forty-five minutes. The first of ten weekly episodes in season one airs on March 31.

That time Disneyland Paris built a Space Mountain ride themed after Jules Verne.

Olivia Rutigliano

February 1, 2023, 1:49pm

It started out as more than just a ride. In the early 1990s, Disneyland Paris (then called “Euro Disney”) had planned a whole Jules Verne area, “Discoveryland,” to be one of the main features of the new amusement park.

According to researcher and documentarian Kevin Perjurer, the area’s centerpiece was going to be a giant copper and steel pavilion, and inside it would be a replica of The Mysterious Island, the home port of Captain Nemo from Verne’s 1872 novel, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Docked in a giant pool would be Nemo’s golden submarine, the Nautilus, which was to be its own walk-through attraction and feature an underwater restaurant. There was going to be a giant free-fall ride, paying homage to Verne’s 1864 novel, A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and an ornate, Paris-Expo-esque matching train station to service the park’s perimetric railroad system. And there was to be a giant Space Mountain-inspired roller-coaster, designed after Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon: A Direct Route in 97 Hours, 20 Minutes.

Verne’s novel told the story of a group of scientists who gathered at the Baltimore Gun Club to began designing and constructing a giant gun that could shoot explorers to the moon. His novel was massively influential, and even inspired the French filmmaker and illusionist Georges Méliès, who shot explorers out of a canon into space, in his 1902 film A Trip to the Moon.

But the area, as it was planned, was never built. EuroDisney, which opened in 1992, faced terrible financial troubles that halted the Jules Verne project. Eventually, construction was green-lit, but only for the creation of the From the Earth to the Moon-themed roller-coaster, which was to be a cousin of DisneyLand and Disney World’s dark, indoor coaster Space Mountain.

Even with the design retraction and financial constraints, lead imagineer Tim Delaney oversaw the building of a masterpiece. Inside, and out, the ride was a sight to behold. The aesthetic of the whole area was beaux-arts steampunk, both ornate and mechanical: the exterior was shiny copper and steel, with glistening gears.

Along the side of the pavilion, there was a giant golden canon, which would shoot the guests “into space” to start the ride. The cars would slingshot forwards and upwards before ducking into the pavilion, zooming around (and upside-down) through space and eventually towards a smiling moon, before hurtling back to earth. It had a full narrative, and its own original score. The coaster was named “Space Mountain: From the Earth to the Moon.” And, for a time, it alone solved the financial problems suffered by EuroDisney (then called “Disneyland Paris”).

Perjurer explains the entire story of the coaster’s conception, manufacture, and legacy in an incredible episode of his fantastic investigative YouTube series, Defunctland, which explores the history of shuttered, failed, and forgotten amusement parks and attractions around the world.

The sad thing is, Perjurer uncovers, the Verne-inspired coaster only lasted a decade, from 1994 to 2004. The ride was dismantled somewhat and fully rebranded twice, after that, and although the pavilion’s bones remain intact, the ride inside barely resembles its former glorious state.

Watch the whole exposé below. (You absolutely should.)