Authors are known to mine material from their personal relationships for their writing, but John Updike found inspiration from his interviews. After journalist William Ecenbarger wrote a profile of Updike in 1983, he found himself the subject of an Updike short story. Pair with: Our review of Updike’s Collected Stories.
Though Kim Gordon is mostly known for her time in Sonic Youth, she’s also an artist and writer, one who’s racked up art projects and publications over the course of the past forty years. At Full-Stop, Hestia Peppe reviews Is It My Body?, a new collection of Gordon’s essays and other written work. It might also be a good time to read our own Anne K. Yoder on punk and revolutionary nonfiction.
At the LARB, Millions contributor Nathan Deuel reviews Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball, which we covered as part of our Great 2014 Book Preview. Nathan calls the novel “daring and odd” and notes that, as the plot advances, “even we readers become slightly shaky witnesses.” You can learn more about Jesse Ball’s work in our own Janet Potter’sreview of his novel The Curfew.
"Set in the New York art world, The Blazing World tells the story of Harriet Burden, an accomplished, middle-aged artist so frustrated by her lack of stature that she arranges for three younger male artists to show her work as their own. Burden believes her artwork will be better received if exhibited by young men, rather than an aging widow.
Yet with a condition so encompassing and of such long standing, could he ever strip the “real” him from his disease? From the beginning, fear and Stossel were born twins. One wonders if he would ache for that phantom creature if, somehow, it were excised.
High genre is fiction that allows you to investigate an individual text, because it is full of its own traits and merits, whether in its characterizations, its plot, or its prose. Regular genre, I suppose, is something you can only talk about as a family — tracing the themes shared collectively among its members. High genre will always be vulnerable to the taint of its lower peers, because it shares the equipment, the same beats. This is why people are drawn to True Detective, and yet can accept assertions that it is just another dead naked lady show. I mentioned the praxis of electronic dance music. Detractors would have it that this music is derivative noise, the artless patching together of beats at just the right frequency to make the ladies tear off their cardigans in the middle of the dance hall. These are the same kinds of things that people say about genre novels. But DJs (like medieval Islamic poets, in fact), demonstrate their mastery through use of the material of their peers and predecessors. You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel. You just need to be really good at spinning it.
Ultimately,Ugrešić‘s most dire forecast is for the writer: “As a specific human species, the majority of writers are facing extinction. Whether writers fall into the critically endangered group like Sumatran orangutans, the endangered group like Malaysian tigers, the vulnerable group like African elephants, the near threatened group together with the jaguar, or in the least concern group with the giraffe — let’s leave that to the experts.” At least the writers might take solace that they’re not alone?
Most people would assume that the biologist volunteered for the expedition because she wanted to find out what happened to her husband in Area X. And perhaps she does, but what becomes increasingly clear as ANNIHILATION progresses is that Vandermeer has immersed us in a mind that is almost as unusual as the environment it’s studying. This is a woman who has enjoyed life most keenly while crouching alone near some tiny ecosystem — a tide pool, a backyard pond, a vacant lot — watching its residents go about their business for hours on end. She ‘could tell one sea anemone from another in an instant, could have picked out any denizen of those tidal pools from a lineup if it had committed a crime.’
I suspect there may be two essential audiences for this type of book. The first are the Sebald enthusiasts, who have gobbled down everything he has written; and the second are those who are genuinely interested in the artists Sebald explores. While the book may have some revelations for the latter group, it seems more likely the Sebald devotees will find more to like.