Ever since the Man Booker prize was opened up to American writers, there’s been a renewed debate about America’s contributions to the literary scene. Many people have wondered who past Bookers would have gone to had American authors been eligible. At The Guardian, a roundtable including Year in Reading alum Joshua Ferris, Curtis Sittenfeld, Edna O’Brien and Martin Amis pick American books they think would have won if they’d had the chance. You could also read Joanna Scutts on the history of the prize.
For structure: Choose a story you admire and want to understand more deeply from a craft perspective. Read it several times. Read it as many times as you can stomach. Outline it paragraph-by-paragraph, section-by-section. What happens in each paragraph? What is the function of that paragraph? If the story is divided into sections, what is the purpose of each of those sections? Then write your own story using the outline of the story you admire. This is not a quick exercise. Give yourself time to read, think, process, and write deliberately. Give yourself a week or two.
The Millennial generation of writers can learn from Keegan in that she allowed herself to sound and to be fully 22, to explore what that meant and to celebrate the value of a young perspective, but never sounded like she was writing a generic think-piece on ‘What It’s Like to Be Young Today.’
Sometimes, it’s easier to read or watch something that’s light and airy, as opposed to seeking out art that challenges your perspective. Millions contributor Fiona Maazel generally thinks of herself as a person who instinctively chose nuance over breeziness. But lately, she’s had to ask herself a tough question — is she actually more attracted to the anodyne?
I struggled, quite a bit, writing this review. Reviewing books, while easy in certain ways — you have certain aspects of form to follow, there are certain features of books that cannot go unremarked: one must write about character, about language, about technique — and really a rather simple process (much simpler, it would seem, than writing books), can also be a pain. Especially, frustratingly enough, when the book is really good.
With the advent of e-readers, books on the subway are getting harder and harder to spot. It takes dedication to get a sense of what people are reading these days. At The Awl, Ben Dolnick sets out to catalogue a week’s worth of sightings, which included a man reading Cloud Atlas and The Stranger and a teenage girl reading Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. You could also read our own Nick Moran on the question of whether e-readers are really green.
I’m not proud of this. I’d prefer to be a guy who can refer to a version or edition or plain old instance of something, and who doesn’t go around saying iteration over and over again. Alas, that is not me. And I found out about my iteration malady in the most jarring way possible. I had just started a new job. One day, a few weeks in, I heard three different colleagues with whom I interact often use the word iteration independent of one another. When the third of these, a woman I knew prior to taking the job, said it, I stopped her mid-sentence. ‘Wait, did you just say iteration? Why is everyone saying that word here?’ Her response hit me like an unabridged thesaurus to the dome. ‘You should be psyched,’ she shot back. ‘That’s one of your words.’
But in the absence of conclusive evidence, sleep’s utility—like that of fiction—is still in doubt. How much, in the end, does either one matter? Neither fiction nor dreams are what we call “real life,” that conscious space sandwiched in the sunny hours of each day. No matter how vital my dreams are to me, they—like my writing—exist in the margins of my daily life, the shadowed wings to either side of whatever action is happening onstage. The decrease in the financial support and cultural priority allotted to all forms of the arts has enhanced the sense that what writers are doing is not quite a job, not quite worth professional payment—not quite, well, necessary.