I started to wonder: With so much high-quality fiction getting written every day in America — especially by writers who are supposed to be in the apprentice phase of their careers — is it possible that we’re entering a golden age of the second novel?
"Only a true Pollyanna would try to minimize Detroit’s staggering problems. But buying into the dreary old ruin-porn narrative is, in its way, as myopic as rosy optimism.”
As the practice of writing on paper (everything from telegrams to letters to books to Post-It notes) is increasingly devoured by technology, words on paper are evolving from widespread tools of communication into the rarefied stuff of art. As things recede, they also expand. As a result, words are becoming as legitimate as the more traditional subject matter of painting, drawing, video and sculpture.
The upper 10 percent has become the upper one percent and class resentment grows deeper and more bitter by the day, but otherwise not much has changed. The Great Gatsby will continue to inspire re-reading, re-thinking, and sad rejoicing. This is so because Fitzgerald was a genius who understood that we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Of all the things gnawing on George W. Bush as he shuffles around his retirement ranch in Texas, I’m guessing the most galling is the fact that he is the only president in the past quarter century who did not have a RoboCop movie released on his watch. That’s got to hurt. In the course of every presidential administration since the Gipper’s — with the notable exception of W’s — a new RoboCop has come out. And down through those many years, America has always gotten the RoboCop it deserved.
There are, for my money, only two worthwhile moments in that perennial PR orgy known as the Academy Awards. The first comes when actresses prance down the red carpet in their vomitous million-dollar get-ups and an interviewer poses that weirdest of questions, “Who are you wearing?” The second moment comes when writers, who spend 364 days at the bottom of the Hollywood food chain, get to belly up ever so briefly to the big banquet table. The Oscar for Adapted Screenplay is almost enough to convince me that the horror stories are untrue. Some people in Hollywood actually do read.
"Carolyn believed Neal had a split personality — a hard-working family man at war with “a wild nature driven by sexual desire.” She divorced him in 1963 and five years later he was dead at 41, his body sprawled beside a Mexican railroad track, full of alcohol and drugs, dehydrated, flat worn out. Kerouac, bloated and alcoholic, followed him a year later. But Carolyn, the product of a conventional upper-middle class family, lived on, designing theater costumes, painting portraits, writing her memoirs, and observing the indefatigable juggernaut of the Beat Industry with a jaundiced eye, even though her two books were inarguably a part of the juggernaut."
Elmore Leonard was a very cinematic writer, yet why are most adaptations of his work so bad? Christopher Orr explores what he calls the “Elmore Leonard paradox” in The Atlantic. “Most of the early adaptations of Leonard’s crime work missed his light authorial touch, opting instead for somber noir.” Pair with: Our own Bill Morris’s essay on why Leonard was such a good writer.
That’s the maddening magic of words, and that’s why artists continue to be drawn to them: words are slippery, they refuse to be fixed, they tell stories that are open to infinite readings.