Has BookTok gone too far this time?

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Welcome to Today in Books, where we report on literary titles at the intersection of politics, culture, media, and more.

It’s Friday, the pollen counts are out of control and the vibrations are everywhere. Here we are.

CoHo, ACOTAR, Orwell?

The last time 1984 appeared on bestseller lists, it was because a fascist was running for president, and Orwell’s ten-year predictions seemed painfully prescient. This time it’s because Audible has released a new original adaptation starring an all-star castand a certain angle of BookTok turned a scene where Andrew Scott’s character tortures Andrew Garfield’s character into audio-erotica. What do we do with this? Here’s the emotional journey I took trying to process the story: 👀 😬 🙈 🤷‍♀️

People find all kinds of uses for media (how about euphemism?) beyond the intentions of the creators, and my pearl level is generally pretty high. The Internet was created for porn, After all. But the more I think about it, the more I realize it seems 👀 because 1) it’s a literal torture scene, 2) by definition, there is no consent in torture, and 3) it’s situated within a very specific combination of dynamics racial, sexual, and gender issues in which heterosexual white women often objectify gay men.

Now, BookTok is not monolithic and the users participating in this trend are not all straight white women, but the platform tends to be dominated by white books and readers. I can’t help but think about how different (how ugly) this trend would be if one of the characters were a person of color or a woman or, well, any combination other than two white men in a scene that can, but should, be coded in a queer way. Given BookTok’s recent track recordI don’t have much faith that anyone stopped to consider it.

Dark matter It gets dark and twisty

By Blake Crouch Dark matter is about a scientist who gets kidnapped (by a version of himself from a different timeline?), gets knocked out, and then wakes up with a completely different life. It’s a twisty story that intertwines with quantum mechanics and string theory, and I was waiting to see how they would capture it on screen. The first full trailerdropped this week and seems solid. More Jennifer Connelly in more stuff, please!

Maybe the kids are okay after all

The far right can insist all they want that book bans are for the good of children, but kids know better. My intrepid colleagues have collected examples of how young people fight the ban on reading books, and is a source of great inspiration. May their efforts be successful.

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