"Loss isn’t science; it’s a human reckoning." The New York Times posts an e-mail conversation between Joyce Carol Oates and Meghan O'Rourke on why we write about grief, following the release of Oates' memoir A Widow's Story and in anticipation of O'Rourke's own memoir of loss, The Long Goodbye.
Matthew Salesses talks about moral fiction and how to address prejudice in writing at Electric Lit. A piece of his essay: "The writing of fiction cannot treat marginalized characters as vessels, cannot let the plot play out the racism of under-enlightened protagonists. Perhaps the ultimate conclusion is that one cannot write without prejudice unless one understands that one has prejudice." Pair with his recent essay at The Millions on plot and the inciting incident.
When Octavia Butler died in 2006, she left behind unseen short stories. Butler's agent has discovered two unpublished stories in the author's papers. "A Necessary Being" features a lonely alien leader, and "Childminder" is about mentoring telepaths. The two stories will be published this summer in the collection Unexpected Stories.
If you’re not already a fan of Will Self, his new book, Shark, may not be the best place to start. As Walker Rutter-Bowman points out, the book dispatches with many of the conventions of modern writing, including line breaks, paragraphs and dialogue tags. But it’s still an effort worthy of its author, he writes: “Here is a hunk of modernism that poignantly, beautifully, and, it seems, genuinely renders mental states of sanity and insanity while smudging the gradations in between."
Books by Friends, a semi-regular feature at The Atlantic, sees writer James Fallows recommend the works of authors he knows. This week, he praises a book on the history of flight, a prediction for the economy and a jeremiad on American politics by Gary Hart. You could also read our own Kevin Hartnett on Fallows and American decline.
How many writers actually know how a word processor functions? Chances are the answer is: not many. At Page-Turner, our own Mark O’Connell examines this odd state of affairs, which he became more cognizant of after reading Vikram Chandra’s new book, Geek Sublime.