25 Steps To Being A Traditionally Published Author: Lazy Bastard Edition. Your brief guide through the process, from drafting (5. All First Drafts Are Word Vomit Made Of Horse Shit) to querying (14. I Have Queried Every Agent In The Entire Universe, And No) to post-publication (25. My Book Sales Did Not Exceed My Wildest Dreams And I’m Disappointed Because My Publisher Didn’t Get Me Enough Publicity And Barnes And Noble Doesn’t Carry It And I Wasn’t On Oprah And 50 Shades Sucked Butt And Wah). [more inside]
Why the British Tell Better Children’s Stories by Colleen Gillard [The Atlantic] Their history informs fantastical myths and legends, while American tales tend to focus on moral realism.
If Harry Potter and Huckleberry Finn were each to represent British versus American children’s literature, a curious dynamic would emerge: In a literary duel for the hearts and minds of children, one is a wizard-in-training at a boarding school in the Scottish Highlands, while the other is a barefoot boy drifting down the Mississippi, beset by con artists, slave hunters, and thieves. One defeats evil with a wand, the other takes to a raft to right a social wrong. Both orphans took over the world of English-language children’s literature, but their stories unfold in noticeably different ways.
Genre, Literary, and the Myths of Popularity: The massively popular books are very rarely among the best, whether shelved as “genre” or as “literary.” Want to know what the best-selling book of the year has been? Go Set a Watchmen, a cash-grab novel that many have argued was unethical to even publish. The second? Grey, another cash-grab where E. L. James rewrote 50 Shades from a male point of view. (And, yes, Hollywood “reboot” culture is absolutely coming to the literary world in the near future. I mean, hey, it’s popular.) (Lincoln Michel for Electric Lit) [more inside]
The Novella Is Not The Novel’s Daughter: An Argument in Notes by Lindsey Drager [Michigan Quarterly Review] [more inside]
The Mysterious, Anonymous Author Elena Ferrante on the Conclusion of Her Neapolitan Novels [Vanity Fair]
Passions run high when you’re talking about Elena Ferrante and her work, particularly her sensational, highly addictive Neapolitan novels, which paint a portrait of a consuming female friendship against the backdrop of social and political upheaval in Italy from the 1950s to the present day. My Brilliant Friend,The Story of a New Name, and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay have made Ferrante, an enigmatic figure who writes under a pseudonym, and is widely regarded as the best contemporary novelist you’ve never heard of, a worldwide sensation.[more inside]
What books should a critic own? "Each week, the National Book Critics Circle will post a list of five books a critic believes reviewers should have in their libraries." Here are all the lists, from 2007-2011. [more inside]
You’ve decided on a life of letters. You’ve got that manuscript you workshopped getting your MFA, an agent, and a publisher. Congratulations! You’re well on your way to being a critical darling. Now all you need is a catchy title. Lucky for you, this handy guide will help you title your book, and every book you write in your illustrious career. Janet Potter (previously) at The Millions (previously)
"When women win literary awards for fiction it’s usually for writing from a male perspective and/or about men. The more prestigious the award, the more likely the subject of the narrative will be male. I analysed the last 15 years’ results for half a dozen book-length fiction awards: Pulitzer Prize, Man Booker Prize, National Book Award, National Book Critics’ Circle Award, Hugo Award, and Newbery Medal." Nicola Griffith notes the absence of stories about women from prize-winning novels--even when those novels are written by women. The Seattle Review of Books adds an interview with Griffith on the writing and aftermath of her original blog post.
From Steinbeck to Cervantes: Confessing Our Literary Gaps by Sarah Galo, Elon Green [Hazlitt] Authors, journalists, and assorted literary stalwarts tell us why they’ve missed the famous books they’ve missed. [more inside]
Ernest Cline’s Armada is everything wrong with gaming culture wrapped up in one soon-to-be–best-selling novel
From plitter to drabbletail: a few writers choose the words they love. [The Guardian] [Books]
Dialect terms such as yokeymajig or whiffle-whaffle; all-time favourites like cochineal, clot or eschew; antiquated phrases such as ‘playing the giddy ox’ … leading writers on the words they cherish.[more inside]
Did Amazon Sink the Queen of Online Erotica? - Phoebe Reilly, Vulture
"Engler is an underappreciated pioneer, a self-proclaimed feminist in furry-cat slippers. To put her crowning achievement demurely, she challenged the book-publishing industry's denial of women's appetite for sexually explicit books. She wrote tawdry, lowbrow novels, and published hundreds of others, that freed romance from its lame euphemisms well before Fifty Shades of Grey, and she did so in a digital format long before the Kindle and the iPad allowed e-books to flourish.
"To put it less demurely: There were readers out there, lots of them, who didn't want to read about thick manroots. They wanted hard cocks. So that's what Ellora's Cave gave them. Easily and often."
"The world exists. Why recreate it?" Adelle Waldman explains why.
The Struggle To Be A Good Critic [Electric Literature] How should or shouldn't white writers write POC characters?
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.
The habitual liar may be a very honest fellow, and live truly with his wife and friends; while another man who never told a formal falsehood in his life may yet be himself one lie-heart and face, from top to bottom. This is the kind of lie which poisons intimacy. And, vice versa, veracity to sentiment, truth in a relation, truth to your own heart and your friends, never to feign or falsify emotion—that is the truth which makes love possible and mankind happy. Robert Louis Stevenson on truth and writing.
I never correct anything and I never go back to what I have written, except to the foot of the last page to see where I have got to. If you once look back, you are lost. How could you have written this drivel? How could you have used "terrible" six times on one page? And so forth. If you interrupt the writing of fast narrative with too much introspection and self-criticism, you will be lucky if you write 500 words a day and you will be disgusted with them into the bargain. A year before his death, James Bond author Ian Fleming explained how to write a thriller.
"Books are dead. It's sad, but it's basically true. Sure, you can eke out a decent living if you dedicate yourself to your craft, spend years researching niche topics, and fleshing out the true human characteristics of your characters–that is, if you're extremely lucky and enormously talented. Or you could write a young adult novel."
Closing a Chapter of a Literary Life [New York Times] Ahead of the American publication of his latest work, “The Book of Strange New Things,” Michel Faber discusses it and why it will be his last novel.
Adelle Waldman, author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., was a lonely aspiring writer in New York, generally unhappy. Then she moved to Brooklyn and found that community made all the difference.
You have demons in your subconscious? In a fantasy world those demons can get out, where you can grapple with them face to face. The story I was telling was impossible, and I believed in it more than I believed in the 10,000 entirely reasonable, plausible things I’d written before. Lev Grossman, author of the Magicians series of books, on how he found his voice as a fantasy novelist.
Mental Floss links to free How-To guides from a hundred years ago that are still helpful if you need to mesmerize someone or name a baby
Trans women writers Jeanne Thornton, Imogen Binnie, Red Durkin and Casey Plett read from their recent works for Talks at Google. [more inside]
Describing Dame Muriel Spark's oeuvre as "a body of work singular in its violence, formal inventiveness, and scorching opening lines," Parul Sehgal's What Muriel Spark Saw examines the enduring appeal and the mystery of Spark's fiction, particularly the "monstruous" women: "What hash Spark's characters make of those eternal debates over unlikable characters or unlikable women." [more inside]
The drama issues from the assailability of vital, tenacious men with their share of peculiarities who are neither mired in weakness nor made of stone and who, almost inevitably, are bowed by blurred moral vision, real and imaginary culpability, conflicting allegiances, urgent desires, uncontrollable longings, unworkable love, the culprit passion, the erotic trance, rage, self-division, betrayal, drastic loss, vestiges of innocence, fits of bitterness, lunatic entanglements, consequential misjudgment, understanding overwhelmed, protracted pain, false accusation, unremitting strife, illness, exhaustion, estrangement, derangement, aging, dying and, repeatedly, inescapable harm, the rude touch of the terrible surprise — unshrinking men stunned by the life one is defenseless against, including especially history: the unforeseen that is constantly recurring as the current moment.Philip Roth on his life as a writer.
Creative writing professor Hanif Kureishi says such courses are 'a waste of time' [The Guardian]
Buddha of Suburbia author, who teaches subject at Kingston University, added that many of his students could 'write sentences' but not tell stories.
In February 1963, a new publication took advantage of the New York City printers strike and launched with a daring editorial: It does not, however, seek merely to fill the gap created by the printers’ strike in New York City but to take the opportunity which the strike has presented to publish the sort of literary journal which the editors and contributors feel is needed in America. The New York Review of Books is now 50. [more inside]
The Pen is Mightier than The Diving Elbow Drop Lucha Libre is Mexico's answer to wrestling. Fighters put on masks an duke it out in the ring. In Peru they have Lucha Libro where aspiring authors put on masks go on stage where they are given 3 random words with which they are given 5 minutes to write a short story. The loser has to take off his mask. The winner goes onto another round. The grand prize winner receives a book contract.
"I haven't told why I wrote the book, but I haven't told you why I sneeze, either. A book is a sneeze." A lovely little letter from E. B. White.
Finnegans Wake, Joyce's famously unreadable masterpiece (read it online here), was considerably more readable in one of its earlier drafts. Watch Joyce cross out decipherable words and replace them with less decipherable ones! Watch him end, not with a whimper, but with a slightly less impressive whimper! Sadly, Shem's schoolbook, which in the finished version is a House of Leaves-esque compendium of side columns and footnotes, was not written until much later (according to the footnotes of that section). The introduction to this draft by David Hayman, who assembled it, is worth a read.
First editions, second thoughts. [The Guardian] "Interactive: From Amsterdam to Wolf Hall, Booker winners and bestsellers – authors annotate their own first editions.
Claire Messud: “A woman’s rant” [National Post] "Over the last week, discussion surrounding Claire Messud’s new novel, The Woman Upstairs, has shifted from the book to an interview its author recently gave to Publishers Weekly, in which Messud took issue with the following question: “I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim.” [more inside]
My Psychic Garburator by Margaret Atwood [The New York Review of Books]
"Most dreams of writers aren’t about dead people or writing, and—like everyone else’s dreams—they aren’t very memorable. They just seem to be the products of a psychic garburator chewing through the potato peels and coffee grounds of the day and burping them up to you as mush."[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]
Sunday, April 28, would have been Roberto Bolaño's 60th birthday. The Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona is holding an event that day, in conjunction with their recent exhibit of Bolaño's archive, to celebrate the life and work of the writer. Or if you're not in Barcelona, the celebration is #DiaBolaño on twitter. [more inside]
Proudly Fraudulent: [The Awl] An Interview With MoMA's First Poet Laureate, Kenneth Goldsmith. [Previously] [Previously]
Happy Thomas Pynchon rumor day! [LAtimes.com] "What's that, you say? America's most reclusive author, Thomas Pynchon, appeared in the news Friday -- not once but twice? Why, yes, yes, he has, surfacing in two unconnected rumours. Conspiracy? Pynchonian? Maybe we should henceforth designate Jan. 4 as Thomas Pynchon Rumor Day." [more inside]
Is Science Fiction promoting pseuodoscience? Is it not really better than fantasy? Is it exhausted and dying, per Paul Kincaid (part 1, part 2), a sort of genre-writing version of completing a list of The Nine Billion Names of God? Does physics-bothering unrepentant space case Alistair Reynolds have a compass pointing the way forwards?
Highlighting forgotten, neglected, abandoned, forsaken, unrecognized, unacknowledged, overshadowed, out-of-fashion, under-translated writers.
"Consider hybridisation in the following way. The mixing of a unicorn with a dragon leads to a hybrid, the rhinoceros!”
Thanks, Textbooks. A Collection Of The World's Finest Academic Writing. (Updated Every Monday). *or not
Just when you thought it was safe to open a book... it's the Literary Review's annual Bad Sex Award! (Previously) This year's nominees include works by Tom Wolfe, Ben Masters, Nicola Barker, Paul Mason, Nancy Huston, Craig Raine, Nicholas Coleridge, and Sam Mills. Not on the list? J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy--despite "a couple of queasy moments," in the words of TLR senior editor Jonathan Beckman--and E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey, since the award "is not intended to cover pornographic or expressly erotic literature." Snippets from the nominated books can be found at the Guardian link.
Steven Pinker is apparently writing a science/academic writing style guide of sorts based on insights from psychology. Here is an hour-plus long video of Pinker discussing the book at MIT.
Have literary journals lost their cultural relevance? Ted Genoways, former editor of the Virginia Quarterly suggests they have, and are relegated to publishing masses of material, often submitted by waves of new MFA graduates, that few read. Others question the definition of relevance. The journals do continue to proliferate, generating constant fresh material for a review that reviews them, a database that writers use to sort through them, and agents who comb through them looking for the next literary sensation. Perhaps only print journals are in real trouble?
Wickets and Wonders: Cricket’s Rich Literary Vein - a meditation on the literary history of cricket, and a few of the more well-known books surrounding gigaioggie.