Why try to engineer masterpieces anyway? The idea smacks of our tendency to make a science out of every imaginable pursuit.
Sheila Heti: What do you enjoy reading on Twitter?
Christian Lorentzen: Because I follow so many accounts I think of it as watching a stream of garbage flow in order to see what colour the trash is today.
As a teacher, and occasional perpetrator, of writing, I decided it would be fun to ask some of my favorite people how they deal with The Block. These bits of testimony will not work for all writers, but I believe a sense of the options (while remembering that one does not struggle alone) is of great practical value in staving off madness.
In other words, do try these solutions, alone or in combination. “Mix and match” is the cry.
The question of how the writer ends up with posterity on his, or her, side assumes an even sharper focus when you consider the fates of all the men and women of letters who have failed to pull off this Herculean feat. The English literary world of the last century is littered with the bones of once-gargantuan reputations now crumbled into dust.
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.
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.)