Globe Books
 

January 19, 2020

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: We have plenty of fiction, non-fiction and fun stuff this week, including a roundup of science fiction and fantasy books for young adults and a look at a new crop of female essay writers. In case you missed it, last week's winter books preview highlighted 36 books to cozy up with this season.

 
Long read
 
Why the implosion of the Romance Writers of America matters
  Why the implosion of the Romance Writers of America matters
 

Karen Ho

The Romance Writers of America (RWA) – the world’s leading guild of romance writers – has effectively imploded, and the future of the organization and its values are at stake, along with its major role across the North American publishing industry.

 
 
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Book news
 
Florence Richler, a woman of ‘incomparable, luminous grace,’ dies at 90
Florence Richler, a woman of ‘incomparable, luminous grace,’ dies at 90
 

Sandra Martin

A room always appeared brighter when Florence Richler swept in. She had the physical grace of a ballerina and the poise of a model, but it was her conversation that kept one enthralled. Best known as the wife of novelist Mordecai Richler, she was as groomed as he was rumpled, but those differences faded compared with their devotion to each other, a love that seemed to encase them like an invisible shield. She was also his first and most trusted reader.

 
 
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‘I broke down a lot of barriers’: Late wrestler Rocky Johnson, father of The Rock, reflects on his career
‘I broke down a lot of barriers’: Late wrestler Rocky Johnson, father of The Rock, reflects on his career
 

Dawn Calleja

To wrestling aficionados, Rocky Johnson was Sweet Ebony Diamond, one half of the championship-winning tag-team duo The Soul Patrol and future World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Famer. But Johnson – born Wayde Douglas Bowles in Nova Scotia in 1944 – was also the man who spawned megastar actor, producer and, yes, former wrestling champ Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. (He also had two other children from his first marriage, both of whom live in Toronto.) Johnson’s death was announced by the WWE on Wednesday. He was 75.

 
The Globe talked to Johnson from his home near Tampa in the fall, around the launch of his autobiography, Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story, published by ECW Press and co-written by Scott Teal, who has written more than 100 books about professional wrestling. Soulman was pulled by publisher ECW Press early this year. The marketing director said that “issues with the text have come to light, so we made the decision to proactively pull the book," but wouldn’t provide further details.

 
 
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Christopher Tolkien, son of J.R.R. Tolkien and keeper of his legacy, dies at 95
 

Emily S. Rueb

Christopher Tolkien, the son of the writer J.R.R. Tolkien who guarded his legacy and edited posthumous works such as The Silmarillion, died Wednesday in France at the age of 95.

 
His death was confirmed by Daniel Klass, Christopher Tolkien’s brother-in-law.

 
Long after his father died in 1973, Mr. Tolkien worked to keep the stories that he created in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings – the spiders of Mirkwood, the Eye of Sauron, the elves of Rivendell and thousands of pages of others – alive for readers. As literary executor for the Tolkien estate, he compiled and edited much of his father’s work, including The Silmarillion and the collection The History of Middle-earth.

 
 
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Book reviews
 
Joan Didion looms large over a wave of talented female essay-writers
  Joan Didion looms large over a wave of talented female essay-writers
 

Emily Donaldson

The 20th century saw the novel displace poetry as the pre-eminent written art form, and these days non-fiction seems to be threatening to do the same to the novel; there’s just so much good stuff coming out. This past year in particular was remarkable for the number of quality book-length essay collections by women that got published, so perhaps we can take a minute to appreciate some highlights of the wave that just passed over us.

 
That women are writing great essays is of course neither sudden nor surprising. From Virginia Woolf to Susan Sontag, many of the giants of the form over the past century have been female, and several walk among us still, including Janet Malcolm, who kickstarted things last year with a predictably sublime collection, Nobody’s Looking at You. But it’s Joan Didion to whom the newest crop of writers clearly feel they owe the biggest debt, a debt they pay by citing her frequently (unlike poor old Montaigne, the essay’s charmingly weird progenitor).

 
 
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Adnan Khan writes There Has to Be a Knife with equal parts violence and tenderness
  Adnan Khan writes There Has to Be a Knife with equal parts violence and tenderness
 

Jade Colbert

  • Title: There Has to Be a Knife
  • Author: Adnan Khan
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press
  • Pages: 224
There was a time in my life, a few months after I lost a friend to suicide, when reading Julian Barnes’ novel Flaubert’s Parrot felt like the ring of a bell after a long silence. It’s hard to describe my mindset at the time, but I try to hold onto the memory of that feeling, of being raw to the elements and suddenly tuned to a different frequency than everyone around me. In Barnes’s book Flaubert is a cover for the novel’s real subject, the suicide of the narrator’s wife. I read, “The words aren’t the right ones; or rather, the right words don’t exist,” and I thought, “That’s it exactly.” So many of us stumble through the dark forest of taboo, our hands blindly reaching before us, because we don’t have the words to describe this grief. Language is social – it takes a society to make a language about suicide – but writers give us some clay to work with, to put in words what seems ineffable.

 
Adnan Khan’s There Has to Be a Knife is about a million miles away from Barnes’s style. Khan (who, full disclosure, is an acquaintance from university) writes with a noir sensibility, equal parts violence and tenderness, in a debut set mostly after dark in the restaurant kitchens and bars around Toronto’s College Street. Yet these two books access some fundamental truths of being the person left behind by a suicide death. Drinking only makes you drunk; work doesn’t bring sleep. And you will get through this, but not unchanged.

 
 
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Cartoonist and ‘Genius Grant’ recipient Lynda Barry on the scariness of creativity
  Cartoonist and ‘Genius Grant’ recipient Lynda Barry on the scariness of creativity
 

Sean Rogers

“When kids draw,” Lynda Barry says, “there’s almost always a story that comes with their drawing.” That childlike Eden, where words and pictures arrive in tandem, is a place that the cartoonist and associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is constantly trying to rediscover. The search for the source of cartooning creativity is both the subject of her new book, Making Comics (Drawn & Quarterly, 200 pages, $25.95) and one of the reasons she has now received the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.”

 
 
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Four notable science fiction and fantasy books for young adults
  Four notable science fiction and fantasy books for young adults
 

Alec Scott

 
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Good reads
 
How first-time novelist Jason Rothery landed an endorsement from George R.R. Martin
  How first-time novelist Jason Rothery landed an endorsement from George R.R. Martin
 

Jason Rothery

In 2012, after 15 years as a professional theatre artist, I returned to graduate school at York University in Toronto, where – unlike my undergrad experience – no one was reading No Logo and Adbusters and railing against capitalism. Instead, debates focused on identity and gender, safe spaces and trigger warnings. Halloween costumes provoked protests, Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein were revealed as predators and Jordan Peterson was making waves on YouTube.

 
Then the Steven Galloway scandal hit. Then-chair of UBC’s creative-writing program – my alma mater – Galloway was suspended.

 
 
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Dave Hill rocks and rolls across Canada for his new travel book, Parking The Moose
  Dave Hill rocks and rolls across Canada for his new travel book, Parking The Moose
 

Dave Hill

I’m originally from Cleveland, Ohio, but I’ve spent the past couple years exploring Canada while researching my new book, Parking The Moose.

 
But long before I managed to con my publisher into giving me a travel budget, much of what I’d already learned about Canada was through its rock music.

 
 
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In case you missed it
 
Winter books preview: 36 reads to get you through till spring
  Winter books preview: 36 reads to get you through till spring
 

Becky Toyne

 
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