In Oslo, in September, I attended the preview of Jon Fosse’s play “I Svarte Skogen Inne” (“Inside the Black Forest”).
The theatre was small and dark, without a stage, and the scenery was minimal: a large illuminated rock in the middle, some scattered trees, and the audience members, many of whom were seated in folding chairs ringed around the rock. A trumpeter entered first, blowing long, melancholy notes, followed by a young man. The man explained that he had gone for a drive and, when his car had stalled, he had wandered into the woods. It grew darker and colder, and the audience heard the voices of an older man and an older woman speak about the young man, expressing their distress at the direction his life had taken. Then, without warning, a young woman appeared.
She was called a younger woman in the script, but it would have been better to describe her as a presence—or, to borrow the title of Fosse’s new novel, “Kvitleik,” a shining. She was a modern angel, a peroxide blonde with stern cheekbones, in a glittering white slip dress and a white fur stole. Her hair was cropped. Her feet were bare and beautiful and caught the light from the rock with each step. She spoke to the man, urging him to return home. As he roamed the theatre, trembling, followed by her voice and the trumpet, he stopped right next to the chairs of the audience members to argue, to plead, although it was not always clear for what. “My own shame is bigger than myself,” he screamed. I watched the faces of the audience; most of them remained impassive, stony. They looked down at their hands or feet and away from his stricken face. In their withdrawal, they seemed no different from the trees that surrounded them.
The American Library Association reports that 2022 saw more attempts to have books removed from schools and public libraries than in any prior year this century—indeed, it documented nearly twice as many attempted bans in 2022 than in 2021. Notably, the common thread in these aggressive efforts is the subject that binds the most-challenged titles: Most of them address themes of LGBT+ identity or gender expression. On our latest episode of the Smithsonian magazine podcast “There’s More to That,” I talk with journalist Colleen Connolly about Thomas Morton’s New English Canaan, the first book ever to be suppressed in North America. What did the Puritans find so threatening about it, and how has this book echoed through subsequent centuries? Then I’m joined by Carla Hayden, the librarian of Congress, for a wide-ranging conversation about the history of book bans in the United States, how a resurgent wave of book bans in many states differs from those of prior eras and why organized attempts to prevent specific people from reading specific books usually fail.
The debate about the best way to help children learn to read goes back more than 100 years, but an overwhelming body of data has shown the benefit of having kids sound out letters and words.
One of the largest analyses of such studies is a 2000 report by the National Reading Panel, which found that phonemic-awareness instruction helps kids learn to read and boosts comprehension, while teaching systematic phonics “makes a bigger contribution to children’s growth in reading than alternative programs providing unsystematic or no phonics instruction.”
President George W. Bush used the report as the foundation for his own reading initiative, which stressed phonics for early readers.
Even that report left the door open for proponents of balanced literacy, noting that phonics “should be integrated with other reading instruction to create a balanced reading program.”
Plenty of educators listened to this part loudly — despite the fact that those advocating for more phonics were never saying phonics only. “When I started on this journey, I was like, Phonics? That’s what George Bush wanted. Phonics? That’s what happens in red states,” says Danielle, a teacher in New York who, like many of the two dozen people interviewed for this article, requested we use her first name out of concern for professional consequences.
Few names are as iconic as Stephen King when it comes to the written word. Known for his spine-tingling tales of horror and suspense, which have been adapted into countless horror movies, King has enthralled readers for decades with his unique brand of storytelling.
But in a recent interview, the master of the macabre revealed a surprising twist in his approach to writing mystery novels, and it takes a deliberate page (pun intended) straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s playbook of suspense as opposed to Agatha Christie’s guide.
The renowned author of Salem’s Lot is currently promoting his latest novel, Holly, which reintroduces his beloved character from Mr. Mercedes. It’s a gripping story about a mass murderer plowing a Mercedes-Benz through a crowd at a job fair. During an interview on The Book Review Podcast, the horror author shared his approach to crafting mysteries, emphasizing his preference for the suspenseful style of Alfred Hitchcock over the intricate whodunits often associated with Agatha Christie.
The horror writer talks Holly and why he chose not to erase Covid from the detective’s world
By Brenna Ehrlich, September 5, 2023
THIS POST CONTAINS spoilers for Stephen King’s new book Holly, which comes out today.
Stephen King is readying himself for a flood of hate when his next book, Holly, drops on Sept. 5. “I think that a lot of people are not going to like it,” he says. “I think that a lot of people — particularly people on the other side of the Covid issue and the Trump issue — are going to give it one-star reviews on Amazon.
But all I can say to those people is, ‘Knock yourself out.’”
While inviting bad reviews before publication may seem like an odd sentiment from one of the most prolific, acclaimed horror writers of all time, well… a lot of things are topsy-turvy these days.
And unlike many writers who have released books over these past few years, King — as is his custom — doesn’t shy away from that discomfort in Holly, which follows the PI he introduced in the Mr. Mercedes series, as she attempts to solve a string of disappearances during the height of Covid.
By MEAD GRUVER, Updated 4:35 AM PDT, September 5, 2023
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — After parents in a rural and staunchly conservative Wyoming County joined nationwide pressure on librarians to pull books they considered harmful to youngsters, the local library board obliged with new policies making such books a higher priority for removal — and keeping out of collections.
But that’s not all the library board has done.
Campbell County also withdrew from the American Library Association, in what’s become a movement against the professional organization that has fought against book bans.