Friday High Five: Lizzie Bennett, Louis C.K. and canned fresh air
We bring you our favourite findings from around the internet this week.
Lizzie Bennett: Looking good at 200 years old
It was the two-hundredth birthday of Pride and Prejudice this week - and the New Yorker and the Guardian were among those who celebrated with retrospective appreciations of Jane Austen’s much-loved (and lauded) first novel.
Our favourite, though, is still Helen Garner’s earthy, witty commentary on reading Pride and Prejudice on a hot summer’s day (between cool alcoholic drinks) - told with style and relish. (From the Age a few weekends ago.)
God bless Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, and the current of deep, warm, erotic attraction that flows between them. And long live the Lydias of this world, the slack molls who provide the grit in the engine of the marriage plot.
Buying canned fresh air in China
Chinese millionaire Chen Guangbio is selling cans of fresh air to make a point about the toxic smog that is routinely choking North China. ‘If we don’t start caring for the environment then after 20 or 30 years our children and grandchildren might be wearing gas masks and carry oxygen tanks,’ he said. Already, manufacturers can’t keep up with the demand for air purifying machines and pollution masks.
(Not that Chen is the first to think of it - remember ‘Perri-Air’ in Mel Brooks' sci-fi spoof Spaceballs?)
Louis C.K. on censorship and Huckleberry Finn
Thanks to Bookslut, we’ve just stumbled on this video of comedian Louis C.K. talking about censorship and Huckleberry Finn. (In 2011, a publisher removed the ‘n’ word from Mark Twain’s classic.) Louis talks about the role of that word in the book, and the way that Twain portrayed racism in order to criticise it. Of course, he also says he didn’t want to read the book to his young daughters, because he didn’t want to be reading them the ‘n’ word over and over again …
Sydney Review of Books and the question of book reviewing
There’s a new Australian literary publication in town - and it’s pretty impressive so far. The Sydney Review of Books is edited by respected critic James Ley, and board members include David Malouf, Kerryn Goldsworthy and Gail Jones.
Its first issue includes a fascinating essay on the question of book reviewing, the ‘epidemic of niceness’ especially prevalent in the online world, and the way thin criticism ‘turns reviewing into infomercial, allows established writers merely to churn out material, reinforces industry nepotism, and denies new authors the reception they need to flourish’. Ben Etherington sets the scene, then samples local reviews of Anna Funder’s All That I Am as a case study to illustrate his point.
GPs to prescribe books in UK
In the UK, GPs will prescribe self-help books, to be borrowed from local libraries, to patients with ‘mild to moderate’ mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression and panic attacks. The project has been developed over the past year by the Reading Agency charity, whose chief executive says, ‘There is a growing evidence base that shows that self-help reading can help people with certain mental health conditions to get better.’