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What to read when pressed for time.

17 Brilliant Short Novels You Can Read in a Sitting by Lincoln Michel at Electric Literature:
This week author Ian McEwan expressed his love of short novels, saying “very few [long] novels earn their length.” Certainly it seems like a novel has to be a minimum of 500 pages to win a major literary award these days, and many genre novels have ballooned to absurd sizes.

I love a good tome, but like McEwan many of my favorite novels are sharpened little gems. It’s immensely satisfying to finish a book in a single day, so in the spirit of celebrating quick reads here are some of my favorite short novels. I’ve tried to avoid the most obvious titles that are regularly assigned in school (The Stranger, Heart of Darkness, Mrs Dalloway, Of Mice and Men, Frankenstein, The Crying of Lot 49, etc.). Hopefully you’ll find some titles here you haven’t read before.
[more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Oct 23, 2014 - 51 comments

"That wasn't any act of God. That was an act of pure human fuckery."

Things That Don't Suck, Some Notes on The Stand
I recently reread The Stand for no particular reason other than I felt like it. I'm honestly not sure how many time[s] I've read it at this point, more than three, less than a half dozen (though I can clearly remember my first visit to that horrifyingly stripped bare world as I can remember the first reading of all the truly great King stories). It's not my favorite of King's work, but it is arguably his most richly and completely imagined. It truly is the American Lord of The Rings, with the concerns of England (Pastorialism vs. Industrialism, Germany's tendency to try and blow it up every thirty years or so) replaced by those of America (Religion, the omnipresent struggle between our liberal and libertarian ideals, our fear of and dependence on the military, racial and gender tension) and given harrowing size.

I'm happy to say that The Stand holds up well past the bounds of nostalgia and revisiting the world and these characters was as pleasurable as ever. But you can't step in the same river twice, even when you're revisiting a favorite book. Even if the river hasn't changed you have. This isn't meant as any kind of comprehensive essay on The Stand. Just a couple of things I noticed upon dipping my toes in the river this time.

[Spoiler alert: assume everything, from the link above to those below, contains SPOILERS.] [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Aug 19, 2014 - 162 comments

Trans Women's Lit

Trans women writers Jeanne Thornton, Imogen Binnie, Red Durkin and Casey Plett read from their recent works for Talks at Google. [more inside]
posted by emmtee on Jul 6, 2014 - 11 comments

"That was I. That was me. That was the author of this book"

Kurt Vonnegut Reads Slaughterhouse-Five in 6 parts. Via discogs. [more inside]
posted by growabrain on Mar 2, 2014 - 24 comments

The New York Review of Books turns 50

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]
posted by mattbucher on Oct 21, 2013 - 7 comments

Armed With Madness: Mary Butts, writer associate of Cocteau and Crowley

Mary Butts (1890-1937) was a British modernist novelist whose frequently overlooked writing has had a cult following largely composed of fellow writers such as Robin Blaser and Robert Duncan. [more inside]
posted by larrybob on Jul 19, 2013 - 6 comments

From Ritual to Performance

Great artists rise early, stay up late, float themselves in coffee, flirt with amphetamines, drink carefully, eat if necessary, take morning walks followed by afternoon naps, procrastinate, amuse themselves, avoid their friends, hold down jobs, indulge their oddities, and workwork like draft horses. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on May 6, 2013 - 35 comments

“I never attacked anyone weak."

Cult writer Renata Adler, whose novel Speedboat has been reissued by NYRB Classics, sits down for an interview with The Believer. [more inside]
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Mar 29, 2013 - 6 comments

Please do not feel the necessity to send us more pieces under a clumsy pseudonym.

The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure: poignant tales of the justly obscure. The entry on Hans Kafka is a good starting point.
posted by Horace Rumpole on Sep 7, 2012 - 11 comments

Smart Authors and Designers Discuss Their Covers

Talking Covers: authors and designers talk about the ideas behind their book covers. [more inside]
posted by mattbucher on Jun 13, 2012 - 9 comments

"Bringing up the women’s question — I mean the women’s fiction question — is not unlike mentioning the national debt at a dinner party."

If “The Marriage Plot,” by Jeffrey Eugenides, had been written by a woman yet still had the same title and wedding ring on its cover, would it have received a great deal of serious literary attention? Or would this novel (which I loved) have been relegated to “Women’s Fiction,” that close-quartered lower shelf where books emphasizing relationships and the interior lives of women are often relegated? Certainly “The Marriage Plot,” Eugenides’s first novel since his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Middlesex,” was poised to receive tremendous literary interest regardless of subject matter, but the presence of a female protagonist, the gracefulness, the sometimes nostalgic tone and the relationship-heavy nature of the book only highlight the fact that many first-rate books by women and about women’s lives never find a way to escape “Women’s Fiction” and make the leap onto the upper shelf where certain books, most of them written by men (and, yes, some women — more about them later), are prominently displayed and admired.
So begins The Second Shelf: On the Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women, an essay in the New York Times by novelist Meg Wolitzer. She was interviewed about her essay in the NYT Book Review podcast (mp3 link, interview starts at about 18:30). Wolitzer references the classic 1998 essay by Francine Prose, Scent of a woman's ink: Are women writers really inferior?, and further back in time you find Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, which, as literary critic Ruth Franklin notes, still sounds fresh today.
posted by Kattullus on Apr 4, 2012 - 105 comments

You are, unfortunately, a fiction writer.

46 Things to Read and See for David Foster Wallace's 50th Birthday. The writer described as The Best Mind of His Generation would have turned 50 years old today. [more inside]
posted by mattbucher on Feb 21, 2012 - 26 comments

It's not plagiarism, it's a mashup!

Originality is a relative concept in literature. As writers from T. S. Eliot to Harold Bloom have pointed out, ideas are doomed to be rehashed. This wasn’t always regarded as a problem [more inside]
posted by Ruthless Bunny on Feb 14, 2012 - 37 comments

Writers are always selling somebody out.

"To really love Joan Didion—to have been blown over by things like the smell of jasmine and the packing list she kept by her suitcase—you have to be female. … Women who encountered Joan Didion when they were young received from her a way of being female and being writers that no one else could give them. She was our Hunter Thompson, and Slouching Towards Bethlehem was our Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He gave the boys twisted pig-fuckers and quarts of tequila; she gave us quiet days in Malibu and flowers in our hair. … Ultimately Joan Didion’s crime—artistic and personal—is the one of which all of us will eventually be convicted: she got old. Her writing got old, her perspective got old, her bag of tricks didn’t work anymore."
posted by Houyhnhnm on Jan 11, 2012 - 45 comments

These Were the Writers in My Neighborhood

Have your Chipotle burrito at John Dos Passos' house. Read Silent Spring in Silver Spring. You can now take a real or virtual walking tour of literary DC, from Roald Dahl to Philip K. Dick to Zora Neale Hurston with DCWriters.org. Two DC-area poets have put together a compendium of 123 (and growing) residences in the DC area where novelists, poets, and playwrights plied their trade. The buildings may not all have plaques, but they are still standing: Dan Vera and Kim Roberts focused on not "documenting what used to be here, but what people could actually go and take a look at."
posted by HonoriaGlossop on Dec 18, 2011 - 18 comments

Do you remember the circumstances of your first meeting with Pound?

All the interviews from Paris Review (wikipedia) are now online! [more inside]
posted by mattn on Sep 20, 2010 - 13 comments

Writers on writing

In How to Write a Great Novel authors such as Edwidge Danticat, Hilary Mantel, Orhan Pamuk, Junot Díaz and Margaret Atwood speak about their writing process. If you want your thoughts on writing in a longer format, you could do a lot worse than The New York Times' Writers on Writing series, which features short essays by, for example, Kurt Vonnegut, Saul Bellow, Louise Erdrich and Annie Proulx. Should you thirst for meditations longer yet, Barbara Demarco-Barrett has on her Writers on Writing radio show interviewed a boatload of authors and it is available as a podcast [iTunes link]
posted by Kattullus on Nov 11, 2009 - 22 comments

At the very edge

Island of Sorrows. On the far western tip of continental Europe lie The Blasket Islands, picturesque in the sunlight. Great Blasket produced a great wealth (scroll down) of oral and written folk history from personages such as Peig Sayers (photo); and Tomas O'Crohan and Maurice O'Sullivan.
Here's a brief , more recent of the Island and a bibliography of Blasket Literature.
posted by adamvasco on Aug 31, 2009 - 9 comments

Infinite Summer

Infinite Summer - "The Challenge: Read Infinite Jest over the summer of 2009" [more inside]
posted by mattbucher on May 21, 2009 - 118 comments

What are you reading, charming writer?

What are writers reading? An eclectic mix of authors answer the perennial question. [more inside]
posted by mattbucher on Apr 21, 2009 - 10 comments

In case you were wondering

Joyce explained. (via)
posted by kliuless on Nov 15, 2008 - 23 comments

The Texture of Time

Nabokov and the Moment of Truth. VN talks about metaphors of time, great books, and reads the first line of Lolita. [more inside]
posted by mattbucher on Nov 14, 2008 - 18 comments

O Hangout, My Hangout

The vault at Pfaffs where the drinkers and laughers meet to eat and drink and carouse
While on the walk immediately overhead pass the myriad feet of Broadway
As the dead in their graves are underfoot hidden
And the living pass over them, recking not of them,
Laugh on laughers! Drink on drinkers!

posted by Miko on Aug 15, 2008 - 9 comments

Condensed: 'Care, constraint, concise, cut, character, clarity, and charity.'

How to Write With Style.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane on Jul 13, 2008 - 36 comments

Autobiography of Read

Happy Birthday, Anne Carson! The iconoclastic modern poet who published the arresting, compulsively readable Autobiography of Red turned 57 this weekend. [more inside]
posted by zoomorphic on Jun 23, 2008 - 9 comments

Dianetics is one of them, ho ho.

50 best cult books from The Telegraph.
posted by Artw on Apr 26, 2008 - 85 comments

Users of Covers and Cozies, Ready-Made Souls in Platic Bags, Negligible Generalities

Vladimir Nabokov discusses Lolita with Lionel Trilling. [more inside]
posted by mattbucher on Apr 3, 2008 - 23 comments

When Men Wear Nail Polish, the Terrorists Win

"I'm not a politician, I'm an artist. Depravity is part of the job description," says self-styled dandy, former drug addict, and controversial British author Sebastian Horsely, who was denied entrance to the US by customs officials at Newark Airport on the grounds of "moral turpitude," a wide net that encompasses everything from fornication to being a "nuisance." Shades of Oscar Wilde.
posted by digaman on Mar 21, 2008 - 42 comments

Online directory of historical and literary diarists

Diary Junction. "An internet resource for those interested in historical and literary diaries and diarists." Information pages on over five hundred diarists are included.
posted by jayder on Jan 12, 2008 - 3 comments

Post-War Brit Lit

The 50 greatest British writers since 1945. A few interesting choices here... the 'novelist's poet' at #1 seems fair enough, but this one, this one and this one?
posted by fearfulsymmetry on Jan 7, 2008 - 107 comments

Photographs of Authors

Pictures of writers in a thread on I Love Music. Lots and lots of pictures of lots of writers. Another thread from the same board with more pictures (some duplicates). Author photos are most often seen on dust jackets or in the back of books, a practice Frances Wilson wishes to see abolished. One famous connoisseur of pictures of writers is Javier Marías who wrote a whole book on the subject, Written Lives. Here are a few excerpts from the book: William Faulkner, Isak Dinesen (pen name of Karen Blixen) and an edited extract covering a whole lot of authors. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus on Dec 24, 2007 - 11 comments

Interviews with the Writer

Writers on Writing: Interviews with Paul Bowles, David Markson, and Harry Mathews.
posted by mattbucher on Jul 2, 2007 - 11 comments

Other literary frauds

Hot on the heels of the JT Leroy and James Frey fracases, here's a list of other literary frauds. Writing is lying, indeed. [via Bookslut]
posted by xmutex on Jan 10, 2006 - 33 comments

Flaubert on Structural Unity

Flaubert on Structural Unity. "I’ve just read 'Pickwick' by Dickens. Do you know it? Some bits are magnificent; but what a defective structure! All English writers are like that. Walter Scott apart, they lack composition. This is intolerable for us Latins". Extracts from the letters of Flaubert (via the very awesome book coolie)
posted by matteo on Jul 29, 2005 - 12 comments

Verne's Cerntury

Mythmaker of the Machine Age. In the statue erected above his grave in Amiens, in Picardy, Jules Verne, who died exactly 100 years ago, resembles God. He is, after all, the second-most-translated author on earth, after Agatha Christie. To celebrate the anniversary, there's a Verne exhibition at the Maritime Museum in Paris, one of a series of events from Paris to the western city of Nantes, where Verne was born on Feb. 8, 1828, to the northern town of Amiens, where he died on March 24, 1905. His many fans, some of them quite famous, will be treated to exhibits, concerts, films and shows in Verne's honor. “Underground City”, a lost classic written by Verne and never before published unabridged in English, emerges this month in not one but two new unique editions.
100 years later, questions remain about his life: Why did he have two homes in Amiens? Why did he burn all his private papers? Why was he shot in the foot by his nephew, Gaston, in 1886? Gaston was locked in an asylum for 54 years after his attack on L'Oncle Jules. Was Gaston, in fact, Verne's natural son? More inside.
posted by matteo on Mar 23, 2005 - 8 comments

Paris Review Interviews

The DNA of Litrature. Between now and next July, The Paris Review will be putting all of its writers-at-work interviews online, starting with those from the 1950s, which include William Faulkner, Truman Capote and Dorothy Parker. Good stuff.
posted by liam on Nov 15, 2004 - 13 comments

Chuck Palahniuk's writers' workshop

Chuck Palahniuk (the author of such brawny reads as Choke and Fight Club) has an online writers' workshop that has monthly assignments subject to peer review, essays on writing by Chucky P., and a real smoove interface. I'm not a big fan of the guy or his work, but his "distinction essays", which are only posted to the site for a limited time, do contain the kind of solid instruction you'd hafta pay money for at a real writers workshop. The quality of the submissions varies, but seems to me to be a bit better than most online freebie writers-circle-jerk sites. Just don't choke on the ego.
posted by BitterOldPunk on Mar 30, 2004 - 6 comments

The Master and Margarita

The Master and Margarita. A hypertext exploration of the subversive Stalin-era fantasy, with maps and illustrations. A background to Bulgakov's life is here.
posted by plep on Dec 14, 2003 - 6 comments

An Exercise in Identity

An Exercise in Identity A group of writers seeks to collaborate under a single pseudonym, not for fear of scorn or ridicule, but presumably because they think it makes for better business. Do readers have a right to know who a work's author really is, or can identity just be another aspect of the fictional work? (via Kuro5hin queue)
posted by Erasmus on Dec 19, 2002 - 27 comments

The brouhaha that erupted in Britain

The brouhaha that erupted in Britain last month when it was learned that the prestigious Booker Prize might be opened to American writers by 2004, displays a British inferiority complex and underscores the remarkable persistence of preconceptions that Britain and the United States hold about each other. But it's about ideas and styles and even language being swapped and appropriated across the globe. It's about artists picking from a smorgasbord of techniques and influences to try to get a handle on an increasingly fragmented and cacophonous reality, and in doing so creating a new wave of writing that is richer for its multicultural mingling of styles and voices, its voracious mixing of the high and low, the cerebral and street-smart, the old and the new. Just like in MeFi.
posted by semmi on Jun 14, 2002 - 17 comments

Tom

Tom Perrotta may be one of the best novelists working today, yet not that many folks know his name. His books and short stories portray prosaic suburbia accurately and without condescension, and he has uncanny insight into the mind of the terminally adolescent. Not to mention an uproarious sense of humor. If the films of Kevin Smith and Richard Linklater, the music of Weezer, or Pete Bagge's comics resonate with you, you may want to check out their literary equivalent. As an added treat, here's an audio link of Perrota reading his work. For my money, this guy is one of our best American writers right now, although you wouldn't know it.
posted by jonmc on Mar 2, 2002 - 10 comments

!Surréalisme!

!Surréalisme! Home of, among many wonders, The Surrealist Compliment Generator--May clinging breasts always come to your aid in the kitchen, was mine--and you can talk to ESMÉ, Cadaveric Enigma Engine Generator*, visit The Department of Objects and Delusions or the cool links page.--and I quote: USENET: For those willing to brave the endless morass of asses, alt.surrealism... Now there's a tagline for here embedded in that there sentence!
posted by y2karl on Jan 20, 2002 - 25 comments

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.
posted by rcade on Oct 28, 2001 - 103 comments

Gay Elizabethan Spy and Playwright found murdered!

Gay Elizabethan Spy and Playwright found murdered! Not one, but two Christopher Marlowe movies. Hollywood, thou art such a suppurating whore. Thanks to Pete for the link.
posted by Ezrael on Jun 19, 2000 - 9 comments

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