After working on his novel Family Life for seven years, Akhil Sharma began to lose his mind. Whenever he sat down to write, he began having panic attacks, the kind that left his chest feeling “constantly bruised” for months on end. Eventually, he hit on a solution: he learned to take his mind off his novel by praying for other people.
Are we now living in a golden age of the uncanny? The Millions contributor Porochista Khakpour suspects that we are, and she also suspects that our historical moment, populated as it is with alienating developments and surreal art, is key to understanding the work of Helen Oyeyemi. In the Times, Khakpour reviews Oyeyemi’s new novel. (You could also read both writers’ Year in Reading pieces.)
As a poet, historian, critic, translator and editor of The New Republic, Malcolm Cowley was a genuine literary polymath, which is why it’s not surprising that he wrote eloquent letters. In one, for example, he described Larry McMurtry, who Cowley taught when McMurtry was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford, as a “wild young man from Texas, expert in pornography.” In the Times, Dwight Garner reviews The Long Voyage, a new collection of Cowley’s letters.
The Slow Death of the American Author
Author Scott Turow discusses the impact of a new Supreme Court decision to allow for the importation of foreign editions of American works into the US.
Until now, courts have forbidden such activity as a violation of copyright. Not only does this ruling open the gates to a surge in cheap imports, but since they will be sold in a secondary market, authors won’t get royalties.
This may sound like a minor problem; authors already contend with an enormous domestic market for secondhand books. But it is the latest example of how the global electronic marketplace is rapidly depleting authors’ income streams. It seems almost every player — publishers, search engines, libraries, pirates and even some scholars — is vying for position at authors’ expense.
Authors practice one of the few professions directly protected in the Constitution, which instructs Congress “to promote the progress of Science and the useful Arts by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” The idea is that a diverse literary culture, created by authors whose livelihoods, and thus independence, can’t be threatened, is essential to democracy.
Thoughts, dear readers?