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Book News: George R.R. Martin Was Told Sci-Fi Would Rot His Brain

Novelist George R.R. Martin at Comic-Con Weekend on July 25 in San Diego.
Charley Gallay
Getty Images for Playboy
Novelist George R.R. Martin at Comic-Con Weekend on July 25 in San Diego.

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

  • Game of Thronesauthor George R.R. Martin told an audience at the Edinburgh International Literary Festival that his teachers said sci-fi would rot his mind. "When I was 12 or 13, I had teachers take away science fiction books by [Robert A.] Heinlein and [Isaac] Asimov and say: 'You're a smart kid, you get good grades. Why are you reading this trash? They rot your mind. You should be reading Silas Marner,'" Martin said, according to the Guardian, a co-sponsor of the festival. He added, "It is an artificial distinction anyway – literary fiction in its present form is a genre itself."
  • Alex Kalamaroff gives a history of novels written entirely in dialogue in The Rumpus.
  • Lev Grossman writes about Narnia and the appeal of fantasy novels: "I bristle whenever fantasy is characterized as escapism. It's not a very accurate way to describe it; in fact, I think fantasy is a powerful tool for coming to an understanding of oneself. The magic trick here, the sleight of hand, is that when you pass through the portal, you re-encounter in the fantasy world the problems you thought you left behind in the real world. Edmund doesn't solve any of his grievances or personality disorders by going through the wardrobe. If anything, they're exacerbated and brought to a crisis by his experiences in Narnia. When you go to Narnia, your worries come with you. Narnia just becomes the place where you work them out and try to resolve them." [Hear NPR's Petra Mayer profile Grossman for Weekend Edition]
  • Jess Row, whose unforgettable novel Your Face in Mine describes a white man who undergoes "racial reassignment surgery" to become black, is profiled in The New York Times."I wanted to imagine the most radical kind of integration," Row told the paper, "the kind you can't undo."

    "Harriet first came to me as the plucky heroine of a fun story, but she endures as an icon of subversion." Anna Fitzpatrick writes about Harriet the Spyfor Hazlitt.

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    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.