We have a lot of prizes that honor well-crafted first novels. But what about the second novel, which is far more likely to be ignored? Herewith, Dan Kois announces that Slate is teaming up with the Whiting Foundation to produce We Second That, a list of under-recognized second novels from the past five years. You could also read our own Bill Morris on the golden age of the second novel.
In a short biographical piece for Open Letters Monthly, Sam Sacks writes about the book reviewing career of Katherine Mansfield and the ways in which it “helped her build the writing muscles needed” to finish her masterful short stories. While some critics might take umbrage at the way Sacks characterizes Mansfield as “turning out deadline copy like an ink-stained Fleet Street hack,” his look into her reviews culminates in the realization that “the point [of reviewing books] is not to be constructive but to construct something of lasting value in the little space and little time you’re granted. Like all writing, it should be a passion, not a pastime. The point is to dazzle.”
Patrick Somerville’s latest novel, This Bright River, was recently reviewed in The New York Times by Janet Maslin, who found the book to be, among other things, “soggy.” Unfortunately, some of her critique was based on a mistaken reading of Somerville’s work. I’ll let Patrick take it from here.
New! This! Week! Forty-one False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers by Janet Malcolm, Red Moon by Benjamin Percy, Pacific by Tom Drury, Love Is Power, or Something Like That by A. Igoni Barrett (read his piece at The Millions), and Dossier K, a memoir from Novel winner Imre Kertész.