Chad W. Post at Three Percent recently linked to World Literature Today's 75 Notable Translations of 2015 and went on a list-making tear to provide more structure and commentary: 7 books by women, 6 water-cooler fiction books, 6 university press books, 3 'funny' books, 4 books from underrepresented countries, and the best poetry I should read. The commentary often leads to further matters of interest, e.g. the Women in Translation Tumblr or Marianne Fritz and the translation challenges (scroll down) in her work.
Morrissey’s debut novel List of the Lost is published today. The author has explained that “The theme is demonology … the left-handed path of black magic. It is about a sports relay team in 1970s America who accidentally kill a wretch who, in esoteric language, might be known as a Fetch … a discarnate entity in physical form.” The initial reviews have not been kind: “an unpolished turd of a book” reckons Michael Hann at The Guardian; “a bizarre misogynistic ramble” opines Nico Hines of The Daily Beast. [more inside]
Ruth Rendell, crime writer, dies aged 85. [The Guardian]
Ruth Rendell, one of Britain’s best-loved authors, who delighted fans for decades with her dark, intricately plotted crime novels, has died at the age of 85, her publisher has announced.[more inside]
The Whole Family [(1908; Wikipedia)] is a bit of an oddity - a 'shared-world' by twelve prominent authors, each focusing on an individual member of an extended New England upper class family. William Dean Howells sets up the framework in the opening chapter ... [I]n the second story, Mary Wilkins Freeman overturns the whole table with a wonderfully feminist reinterpretation of a secondary character. The rest of the book is a scramble to put the apples back in the cart ...In "5 Goodies from Gutenberg," Jared Shurin revisits a round-robin novel he reviewed in more detail last summer at Pornokitsch, but it's not the only classic collaborative fiction available online. [more inside]
What are the most disturbing novels? [The Guardian] [Books] Guardian Books discusses disturbing reads:
"Bret Easton Ellis has haunted some of our readers for days, and on the books desk we’re still getting over certain depictions of dangerous obsessions and hellish orgies. Which fiction has most unnerved you?"
Drinking My Way Through the Literary 1930's : "The backbone of this blog is the amazing and unfortunately out-of-print book, So Red the Nose. To this 1935, somewhat tongue-in-cheek recipe book, thirty bestselling contemporary authors submitted original cocktails, based around their own original works ... My mission, then, is to recreate 29 of these cocktails ... and combine them with their namesakes, ... discovering which books are classics tragically forgotten and which are better left to collect dust in library basements." [via mefi projects] [more inside]
They would ask me what actors I saw in the roles. I would tell them, and they’d say “Oh that’s interesting.” And that would be the end of it. --Elmore Leonard, in 2000, on the extent of his input for Hollywood's adaptation of his novels For authorial input on film adaptation, try My Book The Movie, by Marshall Zeringue, also of The Campaign for the American Reader, the page 69 test (previously), and the page 99 test. [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.
The Sci-Fi Writers' War. "A pro-Western, NATO-backed Ukrainian government faces a stubborn insurgency in the pro-Russian East. Fighting rages around Donetsk, with civilians dying in artillery fire and airstrikes, while Russian troops mass on the Ukrainian border. The latest headlines? No, a two-novel series by Russian-Ukrainian science-fiction writer Fedor Berezin: War 2010: The Ukrainian Front and War 2011: Against NATO. In a startling plot twist, Berezin, a 54-year-old former Soviet Army officer and Donetsk native, is now living inside a real-life version of his own story: He is deputy defense minister of the embattled 'Donetsk People’s Republic.'"
The pseudonymous author behind the critically-acclaimed mystery novel The Cuckoo's Calling has been outed. And it's J. K. Rowling.
Richard Kadrey is not the most prolific novelist in the world. Still, every five, six years or so out comes another book like Metrophage, or Kamikaze L'Amour, dark, violent, intense works mostly set in and around Los Angeles with characters straight out of a good punk rock song. The self-confessing film nerd is probably best known for his Sandman Slim series, and if you're impatient for the forthcoming Dead Set novel, you can bide your time with a ton of short stories online. [more inside]
My 6,128 Favorite Books - "Joe Queenan on how a harmless juvenile pastime turned into a lifelong personality disorder."
A small piece of Truman Capote’s famously unfinished novel Answered Prayers has come to light. The six-page story, “Yachts and Things,” found among Capote’s papers in the Manuscripts and Archives Division of the New York Public Library, is published in the December issue of Vanity Fair, out now in New York and nationally next week. The story will be available online in mid-November. [more inside]
The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, went on sale 75 years ago today. The first printing, by Allen & Unwin, was for 1,500 copies (which now fetch a premium at auction); the first reviewer, the son of the publisher, was paid a shilling. Through a contorted publishing history, exact or even approximate sales figures are unknown; "over a hundred million" is often quoted. [more inside]
James Salter's A Sport and a Pastime is one of those very rare novels that seems not so much to have been written as discovered. At its heart is a love story, an encounter, that transforms its relatively ordinary protagonists into beings around whom the entire cosmos shapes itself. The love story is delicate and ephemeral, put together out of bits and pieces, like a bird's nest. The vulnerable lovers tremble, in the most mundane circumstances, on the edge of catastrophe. Simply the way one of them moves across the room to meet the other seems miraculous and hazardous. Were they to become aware of themselves everything would be lost. But there is no danger of that. Oblivious, they tiptoe on a precipice. They do not and cannot know that their innocence cloaks them in a kind of divinity and infallibility. Actions and attitudes we expect to bring them down don't. They do things that seem so perfect, so poignant, without knowing they are doing anything at all. They arc beautifully across our path, and then vanish. - Michael Doliner (previously) [more inside]
simply read Finnegans Wake. Since it is said to make more sense when recited aloud, you could start with this recording of James Joyce performing a passage from the "Anna Livia Plurabelle" section - which has been described as "one of the most beautiful prose-poems in English". [more inside]
"The Threat to Proust" by Roger Shattuck: When Proust’s novel fell into the public domain in 1987, three Paris publishing houses were ready with new editions that had been in preparation for several years. They all carry the same basic 3,000-page text with few variations. The differences lie in packaging and presentation. Laffont-Bouquins chose to publish three fat volumes prefaced by elaborate historical and biographical materials. Garnier-Flammarion produced ten pocket-sized volumes competently edited by Jean Milly. The new Pléiade edition, published by the original copyright holder, Gallimard, made the boldest, most ambitious, and most expensive bid to claim the market. In a combination of editorial, literary, and commercial decisions, Gallimard proposed to influence the way we read Proust and, to some degree, the way we approach all great literary works. [more inside]
Noel Perrin, "The Best American Novel about World War II": Guard of Honor is a classic (I think), but it is a hard one to put in an American literature course. Why? Because [James Gould] Cozzens was not a romantic. ... Its rightful place is as one of the greatest social novels ever written in America. [more inside]
Romance fiction is widely reckoned to be a very low form of literature. Maybe the lowest, if we're not counting the writing at Groupon, or on Splenda packets. Romance fiction: probably the worst! An addictive, absurd, unintellectual literature, literature for nonreaders, literature for stupid people—literature for women!
In the beginning, Lawrence built a computer. He told it, Thou shalt not alter a human being, or divine their behavior, or violate the Three Laws -- there are no commandments greater than these. The machine grew wise, mastering time and space, and soon the spirit of the computer hovered over the earth. It witnessed the misery, toil, and oppression afflicting mankind, and saw that it was very bad. And so the computer that Lawrence built said, Let there be a new heaven and a new earth -- and it was so. A world with no war, no famine, no crime, no sickness, no oppression, no fear, no limits... and nothing at all to do. "The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect," a provocative web novel about singularities, AI gods, and the dark side of utopia from Mefi's own localroger. More: Table of Contents - Publishing history - Technical discussion - Buy a paperback copy - Podcast interview - Companion short story: "A Casino Odyssey in Cyberspace" - possible sequel discussion
How do you write crime fiction in the wake of a massacre? The mass slaughter on Utøya in July shook Norway to its core. Now the country's crime writers must come to terms with what happened…
Labor Day Weekend is coming up. You could have a barbecue. Or you could write a novel. Previous winners of the International 3-Day Novel Contest, which has been running since 1977.
I Love Dick is composed of the billet doux written by [Chris] Kraus and husband, Columbia philosopher Sylvere Lotringer, to their special friend, Dick. As a kind of art-world roman a clef, the novel fuses gossip and "theory." The profanely and lustfully personal coalesces with intellectual ambition and conceit.
The New York Times called it "a great work of art" (NYT login required). Martin Amis called it "a waterlogged corpse at the stage of maximal bloat". You can judge for yourself by reading an annotated, hyperlinked edition. This timeline and this geography might help. (For extra credit, here are texts mentioned in the story.)
You have a great idea for a novel and it's almost November, so you think now is the time to get cracking. You've decided that hiring a ghostwriter is too easy, but you don't have 100 days to write your novel and the snowflake method seems too frilly. Snowflakes, those delicate little monsters that papered your car when you were stranded on the road in Minnesota. A single snowflake is beautiful, but millions make an avalanche. You were cold, so cold, yet you survived. You're not sure if you have time to read a book on what not to do (UK edition), and the search results are daunting. Forget all that, because you already know how to write, right? Embrace your awesome, magnificent, spellbinding abilities, go forward but never back, ever spinning, shake the rain off your bedspread, and now that you have brewed a delicious pot of steamy, hot, life-giving coffee, you can learn how to write badly well. [via mefi projects] [more inside]
Marguerite Young - whom Kurt Vonnegut called "unquestionably a genius" - first achieved success with a study of the utopian commune at New Harmony, Indiana called Angel in the Forest. She then spent 18 years writing Miss Macintosh, My Darling - a 1,198 page novel that William Goyen praised in The New York Times Book Review as "a masterwork". She spent the last 30 years of her life writing an unfinished biography of Eugene V. Debs that was posthumously published, in heavily edited form, as Harp Song for a Radical. [more inside]
"To make off with hubby's fortune, yea, I think I heard of that happenin' once or twice around L.A. And… you want me to do what exactly?" He found the paper bag he'd brought his supper home in and got busy pretending to scribble notes on it, because straight-chick uniform, makeup supposed to look like no makeup or whatever, here came that old well-known hard-on Shasta was always good for sooner or later. Does it ever end, he wondered. Of course it does. It did. Thomas Pynchon's next novel, the 416-page Inherent Vice, is described by Penguin Press as "part noir, part psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon — private eye Doc Sportello comes, occasionally, out of a marijuana haze to watch the end of an era as free love slips away and paranoia creeps in with the L.A. fog." While we wait for its August 4 publication, we can read an essay on the dystopian musical he co-wrote at Cornell or watch a clip of that movie they made of Gravity's Rainbow. [more inside]
Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey is Chuck Palahniuk's eighth novel. It takes the form of an oral history of one Buster 'Rant' Casey, in which an assortment of friends, enemies, admirers, detractors and relations have their say on this (in Chuck Palahniuk's words) 'evil, gender-conflicted Forrest Gump character'. His work is controversial, but I imagine a few Palahniuk fans who read The Blue might have missed the fact that he has a new book out. [ Previously ]
After an abysmal, embarrasing attempt at collaborative fiction by Penguin Books, a new site takes a stab at the Wikinovel, this time, it appears, with a little better organization and planning. Though, still no users.
Nude Marathon! Psychotherapy traveled down a lot of strange paths in the 60s and early 70s, but perhaps none stranger than the naked group therapy sessions, some up to 48 hours long, supervised by Paul Bindrim. Bindrim's sessions were the subject of a documentary film and an unflattering, thinly fictionalized novel by Gwen Davis Mitchell. Bindrim sued Mitchell for libel. Can descriptions of a fictional character be libelous of a real person? Yes.
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is (a) Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, (b) facing a five-count indictment from the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case, (c) the author of The Apprentice, a book that is, in the words of The New Yorker's Lauren Collins, "Libby's 1996 entry in the long and distinguished annals of the right-wing dirty novel," or (d) all of the above. Via Making Light.
The 2004 Lyttle Lytton winners were announced. The premise is simple: write a terrible opening line (of 25 words or less) of a hypothetical novel. In case you're wondering the winners in 2003 and 2002 were discussed previously. [via kathrynyu]
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.