A wonderful piece by Anca Szilágyi on the cultural history and meaning of plums.
In the beginning, there was găluşti cu prune — plum dumplings. My mother’s mother, in August, plum season, steaming up the kitchen, boiling them in a big pot. These were the days before summer camp, before air conditioning. An electrical storm was coming. She warned me not to turn on the television or switch on the light. I thought that if I even touched the window, there would be a blue electric shock. The dumplings that survived the boiling she fried in sugar and breadcrumbs. The disintegrated balls — white lumps of potato dough and misshapen chunks of plums — she set aside for me. The whole ones — perfect, round, sparkling — were for my parents.
A plum dumpling is a perfect universe: the first encounter with granular, sugary crumbs; the dense, substantial wrapping that you sink your teeth into; and the juicy, sweet, and sometimes tart Italian prune plum center that veers toward sublime.
Ruth Franklin argues that Shirley Jackson was successful because of her children, not despite them.
In June 1948, Shirley Jackson’s story “The Lottery” — a dark fable about a ritual stoning conducted in an apparently ordinary village — roiled the readers of The New Yorker, generating more mail than the magazine had ever before received in response to a work of fiction. A few months later, Jackson arrived at the hospital to deliver her third child. The clerk asked for her occupation. “Writer,” she replied. “I’ll just put down housewife,” came the response.
Adam Gidwitz on the quality of children's books, and what adults and kids think makes them "good".
The conundrum of the “good” children’s book is best embodied by the apparently immortal—or maybe just undead—series “Goosebumps,” by R. L. Stine. “Goosebumps” is a series of horror novellas, the kid’s-lit equivalent of B-horror movies. It’s also one of the most successful franchises in the business, selling over three hundred and fifty million copies worldwide—which is a ludicrous, almost obscene, number. And here’s a secret from the depths of the publishing industry: neither marketing nor publicity nor movie tie-ins can move three hundred and fifty million copies. The only way to sell that many copies is if millions of kids actually and truly want to read the books. The conclusion is obvious: “Goosebumps” books are good, right?
Rich Rennicks has an appreciation of artist Lynd Ward in the New Antiquarian.
The so-called graphic novel — which may be no more than a successful rebranding of comics — has become a very popular genre, with its own bestseller list in the New York Times, and growing shelfspace in new book stores. In light of this new-found prominence and respectability, it's interesting to look back at the precursors to the graphic novel, the stages the idea of the illustrated novel-length story went through before settling into the form we current know. One of these stages was the wordless novel, in particular the work of American Lynd Ward, who was both an influential illustrator of children’s books (he won a Caldecott Award) and a pioneer of the wordless novel.