Do “untranslatable words” really exist?

Welcome to Vox’s weekly book link roundup, a curated selection of the internet’s best writing on books and related subjects. Here’s the best the web has to offer for the week of January 5, 2020. Scott is also the author of a series of spy novels set in ancient Rome, which were published under the name MC Scott – a deliberate decision by her publisher before the first, Rome: The Emperor’s Spy, was published in 2010. “They made my name gender neutral because somebody had said ‘nobody in Tesco will buy a spy book by a woman’,” says Scott. “I don’t think that would happen now. Publishing has become much more gender-blind. If it’s a good book they’ll publish it, whereas before it was: ‘Only blokes can write this’.” One of the most important aspects of the Saunders aesthetic is something that might be termed “bonelessness.” A boneless story doesn’t begin with an idea for a central conflict, or with an outline, or with any other structural design. A boneless story has no skeleton. That doesn’t mean that there’s no action. To the contrary, Saunders’s stories are packed with incident. But the stories accumulate beat by beat. As a general rule, Saunders doesn’t conceive of plots in advance, but rather tries to write one funny, interesting moment, and then another funny, interesting moment, and so on. A Saunders story grows like a fungus. Medium’s Zora, a vertical for women of color, has put together the Zora Canon , a list of the 100 best books written by African American women:

To our knowledge, however, no one has ever compiled a comprehensive list specifically featuring the finest literary works produced by African American women authors. We decided to undertake that effort both to honor that still underappreciated group of writers and to provide ZORA readers — you — with a handy reference guide to their work. Even worse were the little things, the discussions of word count goals, of when to write, for how long, how many drafts. Simple eccentricities were accentuated until they seemed definitive, perhaps even mystical. It’s an issue of the individual pushing against the community. Outside of a writing program, you can just be a ‘writer,’ and that’s it. You can admit that you sit there, putting words in a row. That it feels magical at times can be your little secret. But among writers, every writer has to be a certain kind of writer, and your process better be magical as all hell. Scholars have stumbled across a rare first printing of John Addington Symonds’s “A Problem in Greek Ethics,” a 19th-century essay that anticipated the gay rights movement. Symond, fearing persecution, only printed 10 copies of the essay, and this new copy is the sixth to be found. Katherine J. Wu tells the story at Smithsonian Magazine :

A gay man himself, Symonds led something of a double life. Despite marrying a woman and fathering four daughters, he carried on several same-sex relationships (later […]

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