Don't Judge A Book By Its Author by Aminatta Forna [The Guardian]
‘I have never met a writer who wishes to be described as a female writer, gay writer, black writer, Asian writer or African writer’ … Aminatta Forna on her frustration at the book world’s obsession with labels and identity.
"Much has been said about the storytelling techniques of 'Serial,' which comes out in weekly installments even as the show’s host, Sarah Koenig, reinvestigates the conviction of a Baltimore-area teenager for the murder of his ex-girlfriend. The serialized approach teases its audience with cliffhangers, prompts its listeners to construct their own theories and invites outsiders to glimpse the tricky winnowing process of reporting. But 'Serial' also testifies to how much the criminal justice system itself is founded on storytelling." (Laura Miller, Salon: The new "In Cold Blood" revisionism: Why it doesn't matter if Capote’s classic wasn't fully true) [more inside]
"Longings and Desires", a Slate.com book review by Amanda Katz:
[Sarah] Waters, who was born in Wales in 1966, has carved out an unusual spot in fiction. Her six novels, beginning with Tipping the Velvet in 1998, could be called historical fiction, but that doesn’t begin to capture their appeal. It is closer to say that she is creating pitch-perfect popular fiction of an earlier time, but swapping out its original moral engine for a sensibility that is distinctly queer and contemporary, as if retrofitting a classic car.[more inside]
Her books offer something like an alternate reality—a literary one, if not a historical one. There may have been lesbian male impersonators working the London music halls in the 1890s, as in Tipping the Velvet, but there were certainly not mainstream novels devoted to their inner lives and sexual exploits. Waters gives such characters their say in books that imitate earlier crowd-pleasers in their structure, slang, and atmosphere, but that are powered by queer longing, defiant identity politics, and lusty, occasionally downright kinky sex. (An exception is her last novel, The Little Stranger.) The most masterful of these books so far is Fingersmith, a Wilkie Collins-esque tale full of genuinely shocking twists (thieves, double-crossing, asylums, mistaken identity, just go read it). The saddest is The Night Watch, a tale told in reverse of a group of entwined characters during and after World War II. But among many readers she is still most beloved for Tipping the Velvet, a deliriously paced coming-of-age story that is impossible to read in public without blushing.
Barbara Mertz, whose writing career encompassed over sixty books and three nom de plumes, has died at the age of 85. As Barbara Mertz, she wrote scholarly books on Egyptology after receiving a doctorate from the from the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago in 1951, but then turned her hand to writing fiction under the names Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels. [more inside]
What Is the Business of Literature?
Publishing is a word that, like the book, is almost but not quite a proxy for the “business of literature.” Current accounts of publishing have the industry about as imperiled as the book, and the presumption is that if we lose publishing, we lose good books. Yet what we have right now is a system that produces great literature in spite of itself. We have come to believe that the taste-making, genius-discerning editorial activity attached to the selection, packaging, printing, and distribution of books to retailers is central to the value of literature. We believe it protects us from the shameful indulgence of too many books by insisting on a rigorous, abstemious diet. Critiques of publishing often focus on its corporate or capitalist nature, arguing that the profit motive retards decisions that would otherwise be based on pure literary merit. But capitalism per se and the market forces that both animate and pre-suppose it aren’t the problem. They are, in fact, what brought literature and the author into being.[more inside]
In theory: the unread and the unreadable - "We measure our lives with unread books – and 'difficult' works can induce the most guilt. How should we view this challenge?"
The Omnivore's Hatchet Job of the Year rewards "the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review of the past 12 months," with the winning critic taking home a golden hatchet and a year's supply of potted shrimp. 2013's winner: Camilla Long, for her devastating review of Rachel Cusk's divorce memoir, Aftermath. Among other things, she described it as a nasty, bizarre memoir written by a "brittle little dominatrix and peerless narcissist." (Via) [more inside]
Highlighting forgotten, neglected, abandoned, forsaken, unrecognized, unacknowledged, overshadowed, out-of-fashion, under-translated writers.
John D. Fitzgerald had written three fictionalized memoirs of his family's life in the late 19th-century Utah west before the night he happened to regale a group of friends with childhood stories of his money-crazed brother, Tom. At their urging, he crafted a funny and clever series of children's books chronicling the adventures of The Great Brain. Like countless other readers, the blogger and researcher behind Finding Fitzgerald (and its companion blog and Facebook page) has been fascinated with discovering the real settings and stories behind the books. And the truly committed can even watch Jimmy Osmond in the 1978 film adaptation.
"...for the next tour, I’ll either be calm and collected or nervous with a dangerously out-of-control boner."
"I always knew that Sugar was Cheryl, and that the anonymity was just a temporary experience, and it wasn’t going to be really who Sugar was in the end. I revealed myself to you. I only withheld one piece of pretty meaningless information: my name. But I showed myself to you." Dear Sugar of The Rumpus is revealed to be author Cheryl Strayed. [more inside]
"It's harder than you think to write a sentence that doesn't say anything." The quest to find and understand the author of In Sara, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven There Were Men and Women. "Includes full-length album (by Robert Ashley) and PDF of Wolgamot's magnum opus." (Via)
Fans of George RR Martin's "The Song of Ice and Fire" series are eagerly awaiting "A Dance With Dragons", the next book. This anticipation has led to hostility from some fans as to Martin's work ethic and the manner in which he spends his personal time.
An author takes exception to a review of her book & comments on the reviewer's site. What could possibly go wrong?
Stefan Zweig (November 28, 1881 – February 22, 1942) was an Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer. At the height of his literary career, in the 1920s and 1930s, he was one of the most famous writers in the world. [more inside]
POD-dy Mouth - a blog reviewing the best of print-on-demand (self-published) books: "finding needles, discarding hay". Also with commentary on the industry itself, and great snark (1, 2). Take her quiz: can you spot the POD excerpts from the traditionally published? (Answers here.)
Stanislaw Lem: 1921-2006. Polish science-fiction giant Stanislaw Lem died this morning. He was 84. Though Lem was not as well known as Asimov or Heinlein or the other "Masters", he was just as important to the genre. Lem was not a fan of traditonal science-fiction, and in his work tried to approach futuristic themes from a more humanistic, almost psychological, perspective. (And his books are funny!) His best-known work, Solaris, was twice made into a film, most recently in 2002. [Woefully out-of-date official site.]
The outrageous Frank Harris, the inimitable Amanda McKittrick Ros, and the unlovely Webster Edgerly, and much more.
Colin Wilson, genius, knicker fetishist, social misfit and author of 110 books that even his publisher didn't want
Janet Frame, New Zealand writer, is dead at 79. More information about her life, here, and obituary notice here. Nominated for the Nobel Prize for Fiction last year, I had hoped she might yet win. RIP.
Jeff VanderMeer is not only a great author of weird sf, and a creator of the mysterious city of Ambergris, but has an alternative official site where he makes merciless fun of himself and the whole idea of author web pages. The site includes bad poetry, a secret subsite of the "webdesigner" Garry and a strange alien baby project, just for starters.....
"The first flight we took my wife and I, we were greeted by a ticket agent who cheerfully told us that we had been selected randomly for a special security check. Then it began to happen at every single stop, at every single airport. The random process took on a 100 per cent certitude." Canadian award winning writer Rohinton Mistry cancels his US book tour after being subjected to racial profiling.
If cyberspace were organized into a giant neural computer... [NYT, reg req] ...one could in theory "upload" a person's mental software into it: thoughts, feelings, memories, the works. - an interesting sci-fi premise by author john darnton complete with a contemporary 'mad scientist!'
Literary lynching, the practice of attacking authors who make statements against the U.S. government or engage in dissent, gets a comprehensive overview with a book in progress. As 72 year old author Dorothy Bryant puts it, "More than ever, we need free exchange of facts and opinions. I hope that looking back on a few cases that have had time to cool off will help us to understand the psychology of literary lynching, and to resist it — not only in others but in ourselves." But in today's world, is there any distinction between a thoughtful response and a downright ugly rejoinder anymore? (via Moby Lives)
Mea sorta culpa. Let the hunt begin. First, Stephen Ambrose was accused of plagiarizing one book, and then another. After he apologized and challenged "critics to find other unquoted borrowings," they promptly did. It looks like Ambrose is being outed by his fellow historians, or maybe The Sins of Stephen Ambrose are coming back to haunt him. (BTW, in the print community, plagiarizing is like double-posting. This post happens to be an e-post-ilogue)
Historian Stephen Ambrose, author of over 25 books, is accused of plagiarizing for a second time. Just last weekend, Ambrose apologized for not properly citing copied phrases in a book about WWII bomber crews over Germany. Sounds like a sloppy mistake from a respected historian, and it proves you have to be pretty careful to avoid plagiarism.
As a youngen, I was very much enamored with Ken Kesey's questioning soul and his flare for the wild. His novels provided much comfort as I tried to navigate my way through those conforming years we all know as high school. May he RIP.
Monday is the last day to declare your intention to write a 50,000-word novel during National Novel Writing Month (Nov. 1-30). "Dubious fiction writers from all nations are invited to participate," says organizer Chris Baty. So far, around 3,000 writers have pledged to bring 150 million new words into the world.
I've liked most of the things Douglas Coupland has written and although this interview at amazon about his upcoming book sounds like he's giving most of the book's plot away, I'll still pick up a copy. I wish amazon would put warnings up saying 'spoilers ahead' on links such as that interview.