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NEW ENGLAND LITERARY NEWS

Letters to Knausgaard; bookstores on the move; Boston Book Fest headliners

The New England Mobile Book Fair is among several local bookstores on the move and/or raising funds.
The New England Mobile Book Fair is among several local bookstores on the move and/or raising funds.Leslie Anderson

Struggling back

In “Dear Knausgaard,” out this week as part of the Fiction Advocate’s “Afterwords” series, Brookline author Kim Adrian responds to the work of the Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard in a series of wry, wise, penetrating letters addressed to him. Adrian both exalts Knausgaard’s work — primarily his six-volume autobiographical novel “My Struggle” — and wrestles with her own conflicted feelings about his project, his treatment of the feminine in particular. The letters are intimate (discussions of Celan and Bachmann are peppered with mention of snacks and conversations with her husband), erudite, and often funny. On display is a rigorous mind, a fiery intellect, a curious and engaged reader. Adrian brings lofty ideas — questions of attention and meaning, of the troubling permeability between inside and outside, of reality itself — down to the meat-and-feeling human level. The book ends up being about not just what it means to read Knausgaard’s work, but what it means to read, to think, to allow oneself to be not just moved by a piece of art, but altered by it in “the special kind of communion that’s sometimes possible through the medium of text.” Adrian will discuss the book on Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. in a virtual event hosted by the Brookline Booksmith.

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Bookshop shuffle

Local bookstores are on the move and raising funds. The New England Mobile Book Fair, which moved from its massive, longtime space to a smaller temporary home in 2017, has been working hard to stay afloat. They need to be out of their current location by the end of the month as the building is being razed, and recently launched a GoFundMe campaign with the goal to raise $75,000 to help “move, restock, take care of our staff and take us into the future.” Meanwhile, in Lenox, The Bookstore also launched a GoFundMe campaign admitting that the pandemic had taken a big-time toll on their business and that they needed help. They hoped to raise $60,000 and did so, plus more, by the next day. As of this writing, they’ve raised nearly $93,000. One donor observed that “The Bookstore is a portal to a lost world of ideas, conversation, and the stories that bring us together. If a community stand for anything, it is this.” In Cambridge, Rodney’s Bookstore also faces a move out of its longtime storefront on Mass. Ave. in Central Square. They’re being forced out not from pandemic-related woes but because the landlord found someone who could pay more rent for the spot. The bookstore hopes to find a new space in Cambridge, and has to be out of their current location by Oct. 31.

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Boston Book Fest headliners

The Boston Book Festival, this year taking place entirely online with a range of events and discussions running between October 5-25, has recently announced the headliners for this year’s stretch of events. This year brings Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Ayad Akhtar, whose most recent novel is “Homeland Elegies” to discuss his work. Former Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winning poet Natasha Trethewey will discuss her new memoir “Memorial Drive.” Husband-and-wife team Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn will discuss their collaboration on “Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope.” Harvard professor Michael J. Sandel, whose class “Justice” was the first course at Harvard to be made available online for free, will discuss his recent book “The Tyranny of Merit: What Becomes of the Common Good?” Radio host and correspondent Guy Raz will talk about his new book “How I Built This.” And the executive director of MASS Design Group Michael Murphy will talk about “Justice Is Beauty.” A complete lineup and full schedule will be announced soon. For more information, visit bostonbookfest.org.

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Coming out

When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetryedited by Joy Harjo (Norton)

The Frightened Onesby Dima Wannous, translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette (Knopf)

Vesper Flightsby Helen Macdonald (Grove)


Pick of the week

Pam Kinsey at the Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot, Conn., recommends “Washington Black” by Esi Edugyan (Vintage): “Barbados, 1830. A boy slave called George Washington. A tale of adventure and scientific discovery, all told with magical and rhythmic writing. You can smell the sugar cane (from up in the clouds).”


Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Wake, Siren.” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.