RtB loves the present-day shadows cast by neglected books, which can suddenly loom up out of the backlit past. So, you won’t be shocked to know that John has also been editing a Public Books column called B-Side Books. In it, around 50 writers (Ursula Le Guin was one) have made the case for un-forgetting a beloved book. Now, there is a book that collects 40 of these columns. Find it as your local bookstore, or Columbia University Press, or Bookshop, (or even Amazon).
Like our podcast, B-Side Books focuses on those moments when books topple off their shelves, open up, and start bellowing at you. The one that buttonholed Merve Emre (Oxford literature professor and author most recently of The Personality Brokers) was a novella by the luminous midcentury Italian pessimist, Natalia Ginzburg. And if you think you know precisely why a mid-century Italian writer would have a dark and bitter view of the world (already thinking of the Nazi shadows in work by Italo Calvino, Primo Levi and Giorgio Bassani) Ginzburg’s The Dry Heart will have you thinking again.
Merve started her piece by asking that age-old question: “When should a woman kill her husband?”
Mentioned in This Episode
J. W. Goethe, Sorrows of Young Werther (1774)
Michael Warner, “Uncritical Reading”
Natalia Ginzburg. The Little Virtues (personal essays that do not stage an excessive evacuation of the self, but instead triangulate between reader, writer and object of concern…)
Elena Ferrante, The Neapolitan Novels
Fleur Jaeggy, Sweet Days of Discipline and These Possible Lives
Rachel Ingals Mrs. Caliban (1982)
Listen and Read
The “Recall This B-Side” series continues with our own Elizabeth Ferry’s favorite Brazilian diary….