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Book News: Why Batwoman Can't Get Married

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Last week, Batwoman writers J.H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman resigned, saying DC Comics forced them to cancel a gay marriage plot in which Batwoman married her girlfriend. But DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio said on a panel at Baltimore Comic-Con that the marriage plot wasn't nixed for the reasons you might think. He said Batwoman couldn't get married because "heroes shouldn't have happy personal lives. They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests." DiDio added, "Name one other publisher out there who stands behind their gay characters the way we do." DC Comics was fiercely criticized earlier this year for hiring the anti-gay marriage activist Orson Scott Card to write a Superman story.
  • Jhumpa Lahiri responded to a New York Times interview question about immigrant fiction by arguing that there's no such thing: "This distinction doesn't agree with me. Given the history of the United States, all American fiction could be classified as immigrant fiction. Hawthorne writes about immigrants. So does Willa Cather. From the beginnings of literature, poets and writers have based their narratives on crossing borders, on wandering, on exile, on encounters beyond the familiar. The stranger is an archetype in epic poetry, in novels. The tension between alienation and assimilation has always been a basic theme."
  • Wild author Cheryl Strayed told NPR's Rachel Martin about how her half sister found her after reading her book: "She didn't know anything about me except when she read the description in my book of my early life, my mother and my father, she knew that father was hers, too. I don't name my father in the book but she recognized him."
  • Margaret Atwood and Howard Jacobson are the latest authors to join the Hogarth Shakespeare Project, which asks modern authors to reinterpret Shakespeare's plays. Atwood will rework The Tempest and Jacobson The Merchant of Venice. In a press release, Jacobson said that "for an English novelist Shakespeare is where it all begins. For an English novelist who also happens to be Jewish, The Merchant of Venice is where it all snarls up." Jeanette Winterson and Anne Tyler have already signed up to reimagine, respectively, The Winter's Tale and The Taming of the Shrew. The reworked plays are for publication in 2016, to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.

The best books coming out this week:

  • Mary Beard's Confronting the Classics collects clever, learned essays about everything from Sappho to Asterix. She demonstrates that "classics, of course, are about us as much as about the Greeks and Romans," while managing to balance perfectly on the borderline between scholarly and accessible.
  • Norman Rush's long-awaited novel Subtle Bodies took him almost a decade to write. He told NPR's Rachel Martin, "I had made a promise to my wife to do something unheard of for me, which was to write a concentrated piece of writing, a distillation, and not consume these years in a herculean struggle. But it didn't work out that way. The book got over 400 pages twice, and it brought me to my knees one evening. And I sought her forgiveness first, and then her help, and we together reduced it to its essentials."
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