Is “literary” fiction just a product of clever marketing? Elizabeth Edmondson thinks it is. At The Guardian, she argues that classically literary authors like Jane Austen had no idea they were writing Literature — posterity classified their work as such later on. Her essay dovetails nicely with our own Edan Lepucki’s argument that literature is a genre.
Well, continuing with my policy of baring my soul, Dwight Garner said something like, the book was like one of those satellite photos of North Korea when I talked about the second marriage. I obviously had very little access to Updike from ‘77 on, really. And I cheated a bit by using Ian McEwan as my spy in the Updike household. First of all, Updike definitely did pull up the drawbridge and retire into his castle and I thought, in a sense, that this should be respected. He had decided on his persona, at that point—the highly professional man of letters. And I thought, why not let him go out with that persona intact?
Leslie Jamison’s new essay collection is getting lots of plaudits, not least here at The Millions, where Ryan Teitman argued that Jamison manages to “meet her subjects in utter intimacy.” At the Tin House blog, Stephen Sparks interviews Jamison, who talks about the book, her “shame-seeking superpower” and her epigraph-cum-tattoo.
Good fiction can be a form of good works. As a Catholic, I recognize that life is a story of continuous revision, of failure and unexpected grace, and of dogged hope. I am comfortable with the white space of ambiguity and mystery. I have faith, not certainty.
On the New Yorker’s Elements blog, our own Mark O’Connell writes about Cloak, a new app which lets you avoid people you don’t want to bump into by accident. Despite the fact that Mark can see himself using the app, he finds it “ultimately troubling,” in large part because it strikes him as “such a lonely thing to have achieved through technological control of our social environments.” (Speaking of apps, have you read Mark’s epic e-book?)
Often she is very funny. This is the full text of ‘Idea for a Short Documentary Film’: ‘Representatives of different food products manufacturers try to open their own packaging.’ But what knocks you for six is how much emotion Davis is able to draw from her pedantic scrutiny of language. ‘Grammar Questions’, composed during her father’s terminal illness, begins: ‘Now, during the time he is dying, can I say, ‘This is where he lives’?’
Year in Reading alum Elizabeth McCracken has a new story collection out this week, and to mark the occasion, she spoke with Kelly Luce over at Salonabout her writing, her Twitter obsession and — strangely enough — cannibalism (at least in the context of fairy tales). She also talks about the importance of humor, lamenting that “some young writers mistake humorlessness for seriousness.” (Related: Tanya Paperny wrote a eulogy for the translator Michael Henry Heim.)
It is precisely because she does believe [translation] to be so crucial that she wants it to be taken seriously. Her concerns lie with a notion of world literature that erases difference or sifts out the foreign or the unsettling in the name of easy consumption. In this way world literature mimics a free-market fantasy of the endless, frictionless circulation of goods and information. In this McDonaldisation of the written word there is no room for difficulty or opacity.