"Most fiction about Jewish immigrants takes place in New York. I wanted to explore a different setting." Lisa Peet interviews Ronna Wineberg about On Bittersweet Place.
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.
Chloe Benjamin, ”The Profits of Dreaming: On Fiction and Sleep"
In my favorite passage from The Handmaid’s Tale, figurative language reminds us that Offred’s flesh is and isn’t flesh, and that although her body is controlled by the state, it’s far from a defined, closed system. This brief unhinging of meaning is an act of defiance. And in a world where all you’re allowed is your female body, it also may be a relief.
I’ve written before about By Heart, a series at The Atlantic in which authors write short pieces about their favorite passages in literature. This week, our own Edan Lepucki — whose new novel you may have heard about thanks to Stephen Colbert — writes about the metaphors in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. (FYI, Margaret Atwood wrote a Year in Reading entry for The Millions.)
My mind moves toward apocalypse fictions the way we think about a forgotten friend, or a partner that’s left us—grief becomes its own comfort.
Every story that works gets the level of description that it needs. Which isn’t to say that the level of description needed for every successful story is the same.
Tobias Carroll surveys the wide variety of detail density in fiction for Electric Literature.
Morris does an especially lovely job of elevating the ordinary. Men without much money or glamour to their lives smoke and drink, ride the bus, and sit home alone in the evenings; he makes it beautiful, transmuting daily existence into something gleaming and sensual the way a car’s dull steel frame shines with chrome. Morris notices a neighborhood with ‘glass glittering on the sidewalks, houses in need of paint, black bruises on the street where cars had leaked their vital fluids.’ Placing a call to Alabama, Doyle imagines ‘Rod Steiger sitting at a desk chain-smoking cigarettes and sending gouts of tobacco juice into a Maxwell House coffee can while the blades of a ceiling fan chopped the foggy air.’ One man’s face ‘sagged like a melting candle.’
You may have heard that our own Bill Morris has a new book on shelves. He talked about it with fellow Millions staff writer and California author Edan Lepucki. At the LARB, Diana Clarke reviews the book, which she calls “a sharp critique of the contemporary American post-racial narrative,” among other things.
I’ve gotten to the point now that I’m very calm when I go into the room to teach. I think that when we talk about concreteness in writing, or when we talk about the fantastic, or we talk about rules and logic, or the dangers of the pathetic fallacy, or the dangers of distraction and ruminative philosophizing and forgetting where you were on the page–when we talk about the difference between the conception of voice, the difference between the way that the character sounds as opposed to who you are as a writer—when we talk about those things we’re really doing something. That’s work. You see students come into more control and more awareness and a more direct access to something. It’s really exciting.
Lydia Kiesling, ”Back from the Land: The Millions Interviews Donald Antrim”
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