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Essays

It’s been fifty years since Ursula K. Le Guin sold her first short story. Since then her books have been read, taught, quoted, thrust upon acquaintances, put at the top of Occupy reading lists. Over the course of a long, unpredictable, idiosyncratic career, she has written contemporary fiction, historical fiction, poetry, and essays. But she […]

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No books by women on the short list for the Libris Prize? If it’s any consolation, the gender gap in recognition isn’t just a problem in the Dutch literary world. In a much-discussed recent essay in the New York Times Book Review, American novelist Meg Wolitzer brought up yet again the question of the divided audience. While women read books by men, many men, consciously or unconsciously, leave out the books by women, as if literature were a checkerboard floor that they could cross by stepping on only one color of the squares….

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I think I must have been the last person in the developed world still writing love letters. By 19th-century standards I don’t suppose they were very romantic. J. and I were children of a less gushy, more cynical age. We had already gone way beyond kissing each other’s letters, but felt we were being very daring—stepping over an invisible line of appropriate distance and refusal to hope—on the rare occasions when we wrote “I love you.”

The point is, we wrote letters. Long ones, handwritten, with stamps…

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Our 5-year-old daughter is angry. At bedtime we’ve been reading out loud to her from Donald Duck comics. But now her 8-year-old brother is jeering, “Girls can’t be in the Junior Woodchucks. The Junior Woodchucks are for boys. The Chickadees are for girls.” That seems fair: one scouting group for boys, one for girls. But since the stories in the comics are never about the Chickadees, all my daughter can do is withdraw in tears of frustration. She doesn’t belong to the club that counts….

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