What I’m Reading – The New York Times

“I’m curious, have you ever read the novel?” an editor asked me this week. And I do! I tend to write about non-fiction in this space, in part because I often write about the work that contributes to or shapes my reporting. But fiction can do that, too.

How one’s pursuit of status can have radical effects on society is the theme throughout my report on everything from Putin’s Russia to social media in rural Sri Lanka. , but of course that’s also one of the great themes of literature. And I don’t think anyone has ever described that phenomenon better than Jane Austen.

  • Here I admit I have very basic tastes: My favorite book about her is “Proud and prejudice. “Even though its text is ingrained in my tired synapses because of my habit of picking it up whenever I can’t sleep, I always try to find something new whenever I re-read it. Most recently, I have been struck by a few short lines about Mr. Bingley’s estate in the north of England, recently that his father had not had time to buy a property before his death, includes a whole socioeconomic circle. history. At the time Austen was writing, the industrial revolution was making fortunes outside the aristocracy on the mainland, disrupting the class system that was then the mainstay of society. Suddenly, the world’s new money-making Bingley players had what the land-dwelling Bennets needed. And because the rules of the new age are still subject to change, a small mistake can send either party mired in poverty or disgrace.

  • Rich family in the heart of Austen’s”Mansfield Park“It seems respectable, but their fortune comes from a slave plantation in the Caribbean. Amid the rhythm of the marriage conspiracy, Austen leaned not only toward the hypocrisy of those who taught others what was right, but also a society that valued slaves over poor people doing ordinary jobs. often.

  • The script of Austen’s romantic plots only partially obscured the gritty violence of the gender hierarchy of the time. In “Sensation and sensitivity“Colonel Brandon’s first love was forced into an unhappy marriage with another man, who treated her cruelly and then abandoned her to poverty and death when she became pregnant with another man’s child, her illegitimate daughter was then “seduced” – Austen’s term for what would now be called statutory rape – at the age of 16 by an older man who similarly fed and abandoned her. (Men in those situations are fine.)

  • Turning down Austen, on the recommendation of one of my editors at The Times, this week I chose “Venomous Lumpsucker,“By Ned Beauman. It is set in a near future in which corporations can buy “extinction credits” for the right to exterminate a particular species from the earth. The book in particular does a good job of introducing its high-concept premise through the backstory of dustbag characters, giving it the kind of high/low plot combo that is a particular favorite of mine. The main characters’ underlying motivations (lust and greed in the first few pages only) send chills down their spines.

Iris (Yi Youn) Kim, a reader in Los Angeles, recommends “Nuclear familyBy Joseph Han:

A bendy release that explores themes of the enduring influence of American imperialism, the painful division of the Korean Peninsula and the separation of families, the fragility of dreams. American dream and the complexities of Korean-American identity in a magically haunting and hilariously realistic sequence of events. Han’s story as a quirky writer born in Korea and raised in Hawaii is easily adapted to lavish details – the taste of sizzling pork during Jacob’s return to his homeland and the fusion of Korean and Hawaiian dishes served in the Cho family. They were all too familiar for a Korean-American writer like me, who often argued with stories passed down from my grandparents – about war, survival, and ancestral debt.

Isabella Lazzarini, a reader in Edinburgh, recommends “MatrixBy Lauren Groff:

I am a medieval historian (I work on late medieval political history) and I didn’t know what to expect from a novel about a fictional 12th-century British abbot. was looking for some well-constructed storytelling. In fact, this book is so much more: imagination and reality come together in a gripping, serious, addictive and sometimes wild story of individual and collective empowerment, told written in prose that is simultaneously dry and unsettling. Over 257 pages, no men’s personal names are mentioned yet, a very small number of men are mentioned: It’s a woman’s story, but a universal, very believable medieval tale. , and timeless. A real discovery.

Thank you to everyone who has written to me about what you are reading. Please keep posting!

I want to hear about things you’ve read (or watched or heard) that made you ‘aha!’ moment or bring you joy.

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