“Writing is a miraculous technology all its own—a code that, when input through the optic nerve, induces structured, coherent hallucinations. An equivalent experience does not exist. Words have shape and musicality. They almost have a flavor. But they are too easily drowned out by stronger stimuli.”—
If you’re looking for a weekend #longread, Robert Moor has an interesting article in n+1 on the history of digital and hypertextual literature.
Plus, the article begins with a nice summary of The Late American Novel, a collection of writing on the future of the book edited by our own founding editor, C. Max Magee.
“In matters like writing and painting, a man does what he has to do—if he has to write, why then, he writes; and if he doesn’t feel the urgent need of writing, there are dozens of professions in which it is easier to earn a comfortable living. Writing offers fairly large rewards to a few successful people, but the rewards come late, and most writers are failures.”—
In the comments section, novelist Helen DeWitt serves a searing retort:
“if he has to write, why then he writes…” This is roughly what my penultimate agent, Bill Clegg, had to say on the subject. This is not so much the romantic point of view as the addict’s point of view. Anyone familiar with the world of publishing will know that it’s bullshit. The writer who is literally an addict, the writer who can’t help himself, the writer who HAS to write, can never be anything but an amateur, because the industry requires the professional to put writing on hold not just for a day or two, or a week, but for years.
“I always felt that the songs — my favorite songs are usually stories. A lot of times I feel like a song can be an instant. Like a love song, but there is always a setting. Always a sentiment expressed. Always, you know, a moment. And in other songs there can be a whole story. So I think songs are really great, kind of, delivery vehicles for a story. They allow you to make your own conclusions. Good songs never give you everything. So I really believe a song is like an envelope. A novel, you can unfold from a song.”—Josh Ritter, musician-cum-novelist, discusses the differences between songwriting and novel writing in an interview with Robert Birnbaum. Ritter’s novel, Bright’s Passage, is out in paperback today.
“Dybek isn’t just alluding to Stevenson, but also riffing on Richard II and something of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, while dropping in Japanese auteurs and Greek mythology, to weave in heavily freighted dreams and the vaguely supernatural.”—Mindy Farabeereviews Nick Dybek’s latest novel. And, quite frankly, if that doesn’t make you want to read the book, we don’t know what will.
“It’s an age-old complaint, but things don’t really seem to be changing. You can seek out literature from just about anywhere — and now it’s easier than any previous point in history — but it’s a hell of a lot harder to bring it into the conversation.”—Confessions of a Literary Jingoist by Elizabeth Minkel
“There’s that famous and damning statistic: translated works make up just three percent of the American book market (and, in contrast, sixty percent of all the translated literature in the world comes from English).”—Confessions of a Literary Jingoist by Elizabeth Minkel
“The six novels nominated for this year’s Nebula Awards run from clanking steampunk fantasy from a first-timer Genevieve Valentine to heady and otherworldly linguistic theorizing courtesy of China Miéville—wonders await.”—Worlds Beyond Your Ken: A Guide to the Nebula Awards by Chris Barsanti
“I like visiting my favorite websites on a whim to see if there’s something new; it feels a little like Christmas, reaching into my stocking to see if there’s just one more piece of candy hidden in the toe. The problem with Facebook and Twitter, I’ve realized, is that the Christmas stocking is infinite, and infinitely full. There is always another piece of candy to claw at. One piece is delicious, but one begets two, and three, and four, and, okay, five…it’s not long before you’ve made yourself sick.”—Another pick from the archives: Edan Lepucki, “Ceasing to Exist: Three Months in the Social Media Detox Ward.”
Sendak, who died this week, did not make books for children. He just made books. His linework was elegant, sometimes even cute, but always honest. He was wise, and he never patronised any readers, adult or child. I devoured interviews with Sendak: he was a grumpy, Jewish, brilliant, wise contrarian and he didn’t mellow as he aged. But then, he had never created mellow books. His coming out in 2008, age 80, was a final act of honesty.
Something Sendak once said is the epigraph of my next book. “I remember my own childhood vividly.” he explained. “I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn’t let adults know I knew. It would scare them.”
“Go to your bookshelves and pick a book you have not read. Hold it in your hands. Look at the cover and read the description on the back. Think about what the story might be about, what themes and motifs might be in it, what it might say about the world you inhabit, whether it can make you imagine an entirely different world. I suggest that the literary universe you just created might be more exciting and enlightening than the one contained within those covers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that book. It might prove to be a great book; the best book you have ever read. But your imagination contains every possible story, every possible understanding, and any book can only be one tiny portion of that potential world.”—A quick pick from The Millions’ archives: “Confined By Pages: The Joy of Unread Books" by Kirsty Logan
“The [proposed NYPL] renovation is elitism garbed in populist rhetoric, ultimately condescending to the very people the library’s board thinks they’re serving. It suggests that no one other than an Ivy League professor or student could ever hope to engage in scholarship or original research. Leave the heavy lifting to the folks at Harvard and McKinsey (and the quants in our commodities division), the financiers are saying; for the rest of you, there will be lovely sun-filled spots to check your email.”—Charles Petersen, “Lions in the Winter,” from the forthcoming issue of N+1, plus other problems with the shifting landscape of archives.
“…according to a new study from researchers at Ohio State University, “when you ‘lose yourself’ inside the world of a fictional character while reading a story, you may actually end up changing your own behaviour and thoughts to match that of the character”.”—Alison Flood, “Can a fictional character take you over?”