The week’s best arts and culture reads – including why My Little Pony became a cult, a quick summary of Freud and how Amazon became the enemy of books.

Grimm horrors
Alison Flood | Guardian | 12 November 2014

Thanks to a new English translation of the “unsanitised” first edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, we learn that Rapunzel was impregnated by her prince; that the evil queen in Snow White was the princess’s biological mother; and that Cinderella’s stepsisters sliced flesh off their feet to make the shoe fit. Wilhelm Grimm censored later editions to suit a family readership, deleting some stories entirely — including, thankfully, the tale of a family massacre entitled How Some Children Played At Slaughtering.

Why Read New Books?
Tim Parks | New York Review of Books | 11 November 2014

Great literature is supposed to be timeless. So why do readers in general prefer to read new books, when old ones are often cheaper and come with a critical consensus about whether they are worth reading? Because with new books we have the pleasure of making up our own minds; and we want to learn from people who share the world in which we live. A little wisdom from the living is worth more than a lot from the dead.     

Stephen Glass Apologises
Hanna Rosin | New Republic | 10 November 2014

For its centenary issue, the New Republic seeks out the seemingly brilliant young journalist who almost destroyed the magazine in the 1990s when his many attention-grabbing stories turned out to be elaborate fabrications. Two decades later, Glass lives in Venice Beach, California, and works for a law firm. He appears to be a thoroughly reformed character. But, given the history, is he just acting out a show of remorse to win back trust?              

Summing up Freud
Alain de Botton | School Of Life | 7 November 2014

A short account of Freud’s main ideas for the general reader. “His work shows us that the conscious, rational part of the mind is, in his words, ‘not even master in its own house’. We are governed by competing forces, some beyond our conscious perception. We should attend to him – however strange some of his theories may seem – because he gives us a wonderfully enlightening account of why being human is very difficult.”

How My Little Pony became a cult
Lisa Miller | New York | 6 November 2014

The cartoon series My Little Pony, intended for three-year-old girls, has become “a way of life” for “millions of non-creepy people” of more advanced ages. It “consciously, almost cheesily, invites comparisons to every fantasy and fairy tale in the childhood canon”, but with magic girl-ponies in charge. “There’s a lot of sweetness and love, and people are attracted to that sweetness because it’s hard to find in other places.”            

Amazon against the world
Keith Gessen | Vanity Fair | 6 November 2014

How Amazon became the mortal enemy of the book-publishing industry, after first being seen as its saviour. The tipping point was passed when Borders went bankrupt in 2011. Amazon is now more powerful than any publisher, and the publishing industry cannot legally combine against Amazon. “Book publishers had the longest time horizon to prepare for the digital transition, and they were the least prepared.”            

Scorsese’s New York Review of Books doc
Gerald Howard | n+1 | 6 November 2014

Entertaining review of The Fifty-Year Argument, Martin Scorsese’s film about the New York Review Of Books. Scorsese is “reverent to a fault”. His film is a “Last Waltz for eggheads”. Where is the grit? Where are the arguments? He could at least have told more about Robert Silvers, the Review’s perpetual editor. “The life of the mind may be outwardly quiet, but it is nowhere near as dull as the film inadvertently makes it out to be.”       

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