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.
Tuesday New Release Day
New this week: Stone Mattress: Nine Tales by Margaret Atwood; The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters; My Life as a Foreign Country by Brian Turner; Wallflowers by Eliza Robertson; On Bittersweet Place by Ronna Wineberg; Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce; and Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-half 2014 Book Preview. Support The Millions: Bookmark this link and start there when you shop at Amazon.
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.
"This is a new Catholic fiction, one forged in the smithies of writers who reject belief but retain reverence for religious language." Our own Nick Ripatrazone reviews William Giraldi's Hold the Dark.
Writing this good, especially when powered by a snappy premise, can make for an electric 20-page short story. A novel, to go the distance, also needs a sustaining narrative to carry the reader through. Rainey Royal has the potential for that narrative drive in Rainey’s struggle to take back her body from the men in her life who want to own it, but as the book veers ever further away from the battle over territory in Rainey’s West 10th Avenue townhouse, the drama of the opening stories gradually dissipates until the novel begins to seem more marked by its elisions than by what is on the page.
When is the right time to tell aspiring writers about their job prospects? In graduate school? Before they even apply to graduate school? Or sooner than that even—in their first creative writing class? Never? Let them Google it because it’s just too depressing otherwise?