In the High Peaks

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Elizabeth Gilbert Decides Not to Publish Her Russian Novel

 Here's to hoping that I manage a good and proper post in the next two days! So hard to believe it's already the 13th of June. 

But I have read the first two books on my list, and I want to report on them very soon. I'm due to pick up four books on hold at the library, all of which are on my list, and will not be able to read in two weeks! 

If you haven't heard about this story in book news, I will let you know that I was very disturbed to learn that Elizabeth Gilbert has decided to pull back her 2024 novel The Snow Forest from publication. It's unclear whether this is a postponement or something more dire. It was Gilbert's decision, allegedly based on hundreds of one-star reviews on GoodReads. 

The truly awful thing is that the Ukrainian women blasting Gilbert on that site appear to have absolutely no clue what The Snow Forest is about. No ARCS are available, so they haven't read it. Clearly it was a misinformation social media campaign, having read all the comments. The commenters knew absolutely NOTHING about the book--first and foremost. What the commenters have NO CLUE about is that this is not a book about any ordinary Russian family, but an historical novel about a Russian family in total opposition to the Soviet government, which had imprisoned members of its family in Siberia.

Self-censorship is a huge issue in writing and publishing these days, and I feel compelled to write more about it in the future. Elizabeth Gilbert says she is withdrawing the book because of the pain it is causing Ukrainian women. (But, I want to say to her, they don't seem to know what your book is about.)

But, in the larger picture, the constant topic seems to be this: Who has the right to write FICTION about another country's people, about another culture, about anything? And I will ask you this: Is a white writer raised in the Northeastern U.S. compelled to write only about her own culture and environment and her own ancestors' history and nothing else? I'm talking fiction here.

I truly believe an author has the absolute right to withdraw a book from publication, regardless of what her publishers want. (As far as I know, her publisher has not fought her on this.) But I question Gilbert's motives. And for that reasoning, I will have to pause until I can pick up this conversation again. I hope you will weigh in!

And I believe that a writer has the RIGHT to write fiction about whatever he or she chooses. People have been doing it, for better or worse, for hundreds of years. Maybe no publisher will publish an Asian American woman writing a saga about a Muslim community in Dearborn, Michigan. But somebody might, especially if she had years of experience living in such a community. 

I guess I just hate these barriers that have been created.


Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Twenty Books of Summer!!

 I've been formulating a list for several weeks now.  I must admit I'm not sure how the books will travel down the transit line. (Books on hold at the library.) And I must admit, I can be a MOOD reader, especially when life gets too busy or stressful. I also have not had the time to be as alert as I used to be about new books and recommended books. Despite these quandaries, I'm really looking forward to this event! The heat got up to 87 degrees here today, so I'm all in for reading the summer afternoons away. 

Okay—here’s my list so far. Right now I feel my list is unbalanced, and I feel I may be missing titles I really want to read. Please be prepared for the possibility of a new and refined list in the next week or two.

Please note that I’d love to read every book on this list, yet new or older books may fly across my path to tell me they must be read immediately. That’s the beauty of The Twenty Books of Summer. Substitutions okay!

1.     The Flaw of the Design by Nathan Oates  (2023)

2.     Lost Son: An American Family Trapped Inside the FBI’s Secret Wars by Brett Forrest (2023)

3.     The Body in the Web by Katherine Hall Page (2023)

4.     The Midnight News by Jo Baker  (2023)

5.     The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz  (2023)

6.     The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes

7.     Killingly by Katharine Beutner  

8.     All The Days of Summer by Nancy Thayer (2023)  audio

9.     The Last Honest Man: The FBI, the CIA, the Mafia, and the Kennedys—and One Senator’s Fight to Save Democracy by James Risen (2023)1

10.  The Senator’s Wife by Liv Constantine

11.  Seems to be missing! I'll fill in soon!

12.  The Five-Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand on audio

13.  Another Martin Edwards Lake District Mystery??

14.  The Covenant of Water

15.  Fatherland: A Memoir of War, Conscience, and Family Secrets by Burkhard Bilger (2023)

16.  Pathogenesis: A History of the World in Eight Plagues by Jonathan Kennedy  

17.  The Only One Left by Riley Sager

18.  The Puzzle of Blackstone Lodge by Martin Edwards.

19.  Tom Lake by Ann Patchett  (2023)

20.  The Lock-Up by John Banville (2023)