“This might not be the thing one wants to hear before embarking on a 1,500 page quest, but the trilogy is marked by a narrative desultoriness that applies to both its human and political dramas. The novels are in a some ways about widespread distraction and inaction in the face of an impending catastrophe.”—Matt Seidel, “Transylvanians Gone Wild: On Miklós Bánffy’s Transylvanian Trilogy”
“Seventeen years ago I wrote a book, which you can find on Amazon and Google and elsewhere online. This is unusual only because my book was never published. It’s called “Goths,” fitting for a title that has left its traces on the Internet but does not exist. The traces themselves are ghostly. Other than the title, Amazon lists only the publisher (Random House Trade), language (English) and ISBNs (one with 10 digits, the other with 13). Google goes further by giving the publication date (March 1, 1998) and promising a cover image — but it turns out to be a placeholder. And unlike Amazon, Google neglects to mention that the book is a hardcover. Google admits, “We haven’t found any reviews in the usual places,” which in this case would be the planet Earth. “Be the first to review this item,” Amazon encourages, but has as yet found no takers.”—It’s always disappointing when your novel fails to get published, but what if that novel were still lurking online? At The New York Times, Jason K. Friedmanwrites about finding the Amazon and Google links for his novel that never made it to print. Pair with: Our own Edan Lepucki’sessay on how to cope with not selling your novel.
“Tumble me down, and I will sit/ Upon my ruines (smiling yet :)”—If you thought the English language went downhill when the emoticon was introduced, you can blame a 17th-century poet. Editor Levi Stahl found that English poet Robert Herrickused the first emoticon in his 1648 poem “To Fortune.” For more on the potential ruin of language, read Fiona Maazel’spiece on commercial grammar.
“A few years ago, when I first starting reading and writing about Dovlatov, I focused on the wickedly humorous side of Dovlatov’s deadpan. But a few years later, and a few more books into his body of work, I find myself more interested in that earnestness and regret — in Dovlatov the evolving man and artist, who crafted and, yes, honed a version of himself in his fiction that was just distorted enough to be true.”—Sonya Chung, “Sergei Dovlatov: Gravity, Levity, and Love”
“But I think, you know, sometimes, there’s a tendency — I think there’s a great temptation to sort of resist what it is you do naturally. And I think that in a way, because we all want to expand, we all want to grow, we all want to do as much as we can. But at the same time, I think we have to have some faith in what we can do, too. Because I think there’s a certain amount of value in what’s closest to you intuitively and what style and what, not so much material, but in terms of what vantage and what voice and what way of looking at the world is natural has some value as well.”— Mona Simpson in an interview with Claire Luchette, “A Narrow Vantage: The Millions Interviews Mona Simpson”
“New York just expects so much from a girl—acts like it can’t stand even the idea of a wasted talent or opportunity. And Miss Adele had been around. Rome says: enjoy me. London: survive me. New York: gimme all you got. What a thrilling proposition! The chance to be “all that you might be.” Such a thrill—until it becomes a burden. To put a face on—to put a self on—this had once been, for Miss Adele, pure delight. And part of the pleasure had been precisely this: the buying of things. She used to love buying things! Lived for it! Now it felt like effort, now if she never bought another damn thing again she wouldn’t even—”—Recommended Reading: The Paris Review has put its Zadie Smith short story “Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets" online. "New York just expects so much from a girl—acts like it can’t stand even the idea of a wasted talent or opportunity. And Miss Adele had been around.”
"This is what set Geeshie and Elvie apart even from the rest of an innermost group of phantom geniuses of the ’20s and ’30s. Their myth was they didn’t have anything you could so much as hang a myth on." John Jeremiah Sullivaninvestigates more mysterious musicians in The New York Times Magazine. Bonus: You can listen to their music as you read. For more of Sullivan’s music journalism, read his piece on the origins of ska.
My first serious relationship: I was only there for 3 months before another store wooed me away with the promise of something more serious — and we got serious really fast. I was hired as the assistant events director, but before long I was writing the newsletter, creating the window displays, and redesigning web pages. My life became inseparable from the bookstore. When my shift was over I would stay for upwards of an hour just talking to my coworkers, I was always there on my day off, and outside of my roommate my entire social life was the bookstore.
Those were the golden years of my bookseller life. I eventually left to start grad school in Ireland, but a part of me always wonders if I should have stayed, if I didn’t realize how good I had it. Isn’t your first serious relationship always also the one that got away?
“Whoever utters ‘Kafkaesque’ has neither fathomed nor intuited nor felt the impress of Kafka’s devisings. If there is one imperative that ought to accompany any biographical or critical approach, it is that Kafka is not to be mistaken for the Kafkaesque. The Kafkaesque is what Kafka presumably “stands for”—an unearned, even a usurping, explication. And from the very start, serious criticism has been overrun by the Kafkaesque, the lock that portends the key: homoeroticism for one maven, the father-son entanglement for another, the theological uncanny for yet another. Or else it is the slippery commotion of time; or of messianism; or of Thanatos as deliverance. The Kafkaesque, finally, is reductiveness posing as revelation.”—Recommended Reading: Cynthia Ozickon two recentbooks about Kafka.
“I don’t know where I write. Couldn’t begin to tell you. I’m not being coy, I’m serious. I look at my books, the piles of uncollected work, and they just seem to have appeared. I can’t create any images to go with my sense of ownership. When it comes to where I write, my memory is completely unreliable. All I know for sure is where I am now, which of course, won’t be true when you read this.”—There are many possible answers to the question “where do you write?”, but one of the strangest, and most unexpected, has to be “I don’t know.” At The Rumpus, Brendan Constantineadmits that he doesn’t write in any one place, and that his memory for where he’s written before is “completely unreliable.” We surveyed our own staff a couple years ago to see how they answered the question.
“Now, I ask you, what if all along it was as simple as joining this company to fill the part of me missing? What if some deranged wiring or disease has forced me to isolate myself away instead of considering being part of a team like the one here at your company? I feel pretty good right now, and I’m not even officially part of anything. Just even filling out this application is fixing me.”—Quotes from Dan Kennedy’s poetic job interviews.
“It wasn’t long after ‘The Beast Attacked’ (in fact it was the next night) that Iglalik told the story, ‘A Bigger Beast Attacked Me Last Week.’ Another compelling tale, even if some felt it derivative. Iglalik added three crucial elements: he made the beast bigger, he told how he felt when the beast attacked, and he told us what he did: run away. Many of us, especially the younger listeners, thrilled to the added suspense and detail.”—We cover a decentnumber of literary awards here at The Millions, but we, like most magazines, have a tendency to focus on the present. At the LARB, Andrew Nichollsmakes up for this by recounting the very first book awards, in which Mooluu’s “The Beast Attacked” goes head-to-head with Kurtan the Elder’s “Why Half My Face is Missing.” You could also read our ownMark O’Connell on why we care about literary prizes to begin with.
“But what if some of us want to take our scars seriously? Maybe some of us haven’t gotten the highbrow-girl memo—haven’t gotten the text message from our boyfriends—about what counts as bathos. One man’s joke is another girl’s diary entry. One woman’s heartbreak is another woman’s essay. Maybe this bleeding ad nauseum is mass-produced and sounds ridiculous—Plug it up! Plug it up!—but maybe its business isn’t done. Woman is a pain that never goes away.”—Leslie Jamison
“In his end notes to his biography of David Foster Wallace, D.T. Max of The New Yorker, writes that “David may have been the last great letter writer in American literature” and that “with the advent of email [Wallace’s] correspondence grew terser, less ambitious.” Burn echoes the same view, observing that “the major difference probably stems from the more rigidly linear format of some of his emails. Some of the great letters look like spiderweb art: in these notes, Wallace has written over the top of the letter he’s replying to, with comments between the lines, spiralling into the margins, running up to headers and down to the footers.””—Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin, “You’ve Got Mail: On the New Age of Biography”