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6 Books With Introductions Worth Pausing

In his excellent introduction to Edith Wharton’s writing fiction, author and critic Brandon Taylor, offers an observation that stands up to repetition. Wharton’s work, for example, “brings amazing revelations about how we live and write today,” he explains. Old texts can also give us “something to refute.” Classical texts may remain static, but they are revolutionized over time by the changing experiences of their readers, offering a unique opportunity to “communicate at scale” with them. Fresh introductions help us achieve that intimacy.

Literary superstars like Taylor are keen to take on the role of both guide and medium, placing classic texts in contemporary contexts to provide front material that connects the past with the present. I’m here. Recently, readers were treated to Marve Emre meditating on Virginia Woolf. Annotated Mrs. DallowayEsme Weijun Wang describes the work of Joan Greenberg I never promised you a rose gardenand Margo Jefferson telling us about Gwendolyn Brooks Maud MarthaToni Morrison, Rachel Cusk, Rachel Kushner, Jennifer Egan and Hilary Mantell all wrote the introductions.

The authors of the six prefaces below ask us to reconsider our relationship to past narratives. Through interaction with the books they wrote, they offer us new ways of reading old works and take this form of literary art to new heights. You can ask something like what follows? What should I do?


penguin classics

Karl Ove Knausgaard by James Joyce portrait of a young artist (Introductory translation by Martin Aitken)

In Joyce’s 1916 debut novel, the author’s now infamous alternate ego, Stephen Dedalus (later seen Ulysses), making a hot debut. Young Dedalus rejects the religion he was brought up in, eschews the Irish traditions he knew, leaves home, and ultimately commits to becoming an artist by being of no use to what is not good for him. In the preface to the Penguin 100th Anniversary Edition, his Norwegian sensation Knausgaard called: Portraitbuilding s romance, is a coming-of-age story and perhaps the best example of the genre in English literature. ’” Knausgaard predictably ponders identity, but doesn’t dwell unnecessarily. Instead, his tortuous observations and philosophical musings steal the show. A detailed look at Joyce’s influential work—that it ‘swells’ with ‘mood’, that it is really a book about the world. soul— to give you the big picture. “Literature is never someone else’s property, and it knows no center: its center is wherever literature exists,” he writes. “Only by refusing to serve, like Stephen, can an artist serve.”


cover of a woman running in the mountains
new york review books

Lauren Groff as Yuko Tsushima woman running in the mountainsTranslated by Geraldine Harcourt

Set in 1970s Japan, Tsushima’s novel (published in 1980 and republished in 2022) follows Odaka, a young single woman on the verge of having children in a society that condemns unmarried mothers. I am following Takiko’s predicament. Tsushima captures the range of emotions and experiences that pregnancy and early motherhood inspire. Beauty, suffering, boredom, mundane domestic struggles, and an abiding determination to pursue happiness no matter what.of matrix Author Groff’s introduction does what most introductions do. Groff quoted Tsushima, one of Japan’s most influential and prolific writers, and intervened broadly only to help readers sort out the relationship between Tsushima’s life and work. , instead of getting the rigid feeling of an expert analyzing a subject, Groff and Tsushima feel like comrades. Both are interested in the complexity and banality of violence and ecstasy, pleasure and pain.both ask What is heroine? What is Heroic(Although the place and time are different). They are, perhaps, letting us in on the secret that the answer is not what we were led to believe.


Cover of Tolstoy Together
public space

Leo Tolstoy’s Yiyun Lee war and peace of Tolstoy together: 85 Days of War and Peace with Yiyun Lee

understand and appreciate the genius of Tolstoy together— This celebrates the experience of reading the novelist’s masterpiece about Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 and its effect on several aristocratic families — Introduced as a set of nesting matryoshka dolls Imagine Tolstoy together Something like this.First introduced by Li war and peace; Brigid Hughes, founding editor of the non-profit publisher A Public Space, then introduces: Tolstoy together; then the book returns to war and peace, Other well-known authors and readers around the world share their insights into the classics and their personal and communal experiences of reading them. Lee’s introduction encompasses and integrates all these parts. She writes that readers “want the writers to make it clear that we haven’t found our own words yet, so we want our senses to be unusual.”she compares war and peace It ends with an unexpected but welcome confession to an old tree that has no need to defend its majesty: “Everything I do is wrong.” Perhaps it is her ability to admit her own imperfections that gives her the courage to break all the rules?Here one book becomes a preface to another, a preface to her one author alone. Not a thing.When Tolstoy togetherLi provides the reader with the exact language she knows the reader is looking for.


All Our Yesterdays cover
dont books

Natalia Ginsberg Sally Rooney all yesterdayTranslated by Angus Davidson

In an introduction to the lovely Daunt Books reprint of the late Italian author Ginsburg’s pre- and wartime life, his third novel, Rooney offers a “transformative” take on Ginsburg’s “perfect” 1952 novel. A rousing discussion of the encounter, followed by a summary of the main events of the war. The life of the book and the author. Ginsberg grew up in an anti-fascist family and married a Jewish organizer, but he was later tortured and murdered by the Nazi regime he opposed. belongs to a dissident family who are doing their best to survive the As her young wife and her mother, she keeps fugitives sheltering in the basement of her home. Rooney raves about the plot elements and the “depth and truth” of all the characters, and is delighted that Ginsberg and Anna recognize the “supreme moral urgency” of the moment.that is our It’s not just the 1940s setting that Rooney says he’s thinking about when he writes: Like Ippolito, Emanuele, and Danilo, the youths of Ginzburg gather in secret to share a book considered too powerful. here, you really need to read this.


cover of recitative
Knopp

Toni Morrison’s Zadi Smith recitative

Nobel laureate and queen of American literature, Morrison wrote 11 novels, but only one short story alone. First published as an anthology edited by Amiri and Amina Baraka in 1983, recitative It follows Twyla and Roberta, two characters who have known each other since childhood. Readers are made to understand that one is black and the other is white, but they cannot figure out which is which. All racial identifiers are omitted quite intentionally. One of the first things readers notice about Smith’s preface is his length. It’s as long as the story it tells. Smith knows Morrison has presented the reader with a puzzle and wants to play along. She executes the close (very Close) Read nearly 40 pages of text, analyzing speech patterns, plot and character points, and even story titles. But rather than trying to solve the mystery (which she confesses, I wish I could), she unravels it. why The mystery is important, and admires Morrison’s “poetic form and scientific method.” According to Smith, Morrison believed the story could be an experiment. Smith also seems to ask why an introduction shouldn’t be an introduction.


The Art of the Novel cover
University of Chicago Press

Colm Tobin in Henry James The Art of the Fiction: An Important Preface

When it comes to the phenomenal and enduring work of American-born novelist and critic James, it’s hard to find a more relevant and interesting guide than Irish author Tobin. Tobin wrote a novel, master, with James as the main character.he is also the author of every novelist needs A critical essay on James and his work. In a 2011 reprint from the University of Chicago Press, art of fiction— A curated selection of the forewords James has written for many of his own works — Tobin goes to great lengths. In addition to his original 1934 introduction by poet and critic RP Blackmur, he shares his own startling reflections on his James collection. James said he tended to eat out in 1877 London, which increased his interaction with “the most important person of the day.” Tóibín’s delicious intro steers the reader between gossip (Robert Browning’s “The story doesn’t sound so good”) and actual events (screw rotation was first told to James by the Archbishop of Canterbury!) and inspired his most popular works. Even a preface can be a masterpiece if you’re as good as James or Tóibín.


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