Seventeen years ago I wrote a book, which you can find on Amazon and Google and elsewhere online. This is unusual only because my book was never published. It’s called “Goths,” fitting for a title that has left its traces on the Internet but does not exist. The traces themselves are ghostly. Other than the title, Amazon lists only the publisher (Random House Trade), language (English) and ISBNs (one with 10 digits, the other with 13). Google goes further by giving the publication date (March 1, 1998) and promising a cover image — but it turns out to be a placeholder. And unlike Amazon, Google neglects to mention that the book is a hardcover. Google admits, “We haven’t found any reviews in the usual places,” which in this case would be the planet Earth. “Be the first to review this item,” Amazon encourages, but has as yet found no takers.
From The Things They Carried to Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, veteran literary fiction has always been popular, yet women are almost nowhere to be found in war literature. At The New York Times, Cara Hoffman argues that leaving women out of combat literature makes returning from war even more isolating. “They would be made visible if we could read stories that would allow us to understand that women kill in combat and lose friends and long to see their children and partners at home.”
Writing a novel is an all-consuming project, so can you imagine not telling anyone? At The New York Times, Alice Mattison discusses keeping her novels secrets until at least the third draft. “If I talk about the book, I believe — I cannot help believing — my characters will be angry, and will no longer confide in me about their embarrassing, troubled lives.” On another side of the secrecy spectrum, Emma Straub writes about what it’s like to keep a personal secret even as her literary life was booming.
Like passengers in a lifeboat, all the words in a concise text must pull their own weight.
In 2013, only 93 of 3,200 children’s books were about black characters, according to a new study. “Children of color remain outside the boundaries of imagination,” Christopher Myers writes about the absence. In a follow-up piece, his father and fellow author Walter Dean Myers examines the paralyzing effect under-representation can have on readers. “Books did not become my enemies. They were more like friends with whom I no longer felt comfortable. I stopped reading,” he writes.
Yesterday, our own Elizabeth Minkel pondered if Twitter fiction could be real art. She cited Teju Cole, a literary Twitter master, but what does he have to say about how Twitter affects his writing? “My memory is worse than it was a few years ago, but I hope that my ability to write a good sentence has improved,” he told The New York Times.
Killing off your characters is never an easy feat. At The New York Times, thriller writer Alex Berenson discusses his reservations on killing the hero of his spy series. “John Wells has markedly enriched my life — an impressive feat for a man who doesn’t exist.” The eighth installment, The Counterfeit Agent, just came out.
Looking for a way to spice up your short story? Add a ghost. “This is going to sound strange, but what your story really needs is a ghost,” Lorrie Moore said in an interview with The New York Times. She discussed her new professorship at Vanderbilt and her new short story collection, Bark, which, yes, does contain a ghost story.