New this week stateside is buzzed-about Booker shortlister Room by Emma Donoghue. Also out: Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, a new collection by “20 Under 40” lister Yiyun Li; Sigrid Nunez’s post-apocalyptic Salvation City; and a McSweeney’s-published memoir Half a Life by Chang and Eng author Darin Strauss.
The Naipaul Question, as Morgan Meis calls it, is simple: is V.S. Naipaul too offensive to be taken seriously? His recent biography includes scenes of abuse and moments of straightforward racism. But Meis thinks the issue is more complicated than whether Naipaul is a monster — the author is, in his phrasing, too “protean” to be pinned down.
Over at ZYZZYVA, Christian Kiefer talks to playwright Octavio Solis and novelist Scott Hutchins about the craft of writing and the difference between writing plays and writing novels. “It takes a huge amount of hard labor, man, to harness the forces that we are using to make our stories. They may emerge whole cloth out of our need to know how we operate as humans, but they’re often clumsy unfinished beasts.” Kiefer’s new novel, The Animals, is one of the most anticipated books of 2015.
Francine Prose has an idiosyncratic theory that the Hindu god Ganesh is a vital part of her writing process. In a VQR essay, she explains that her portrait of the deity (which she purchased forty years ago at a bazaar in Mumbai) gives her a kind of confidence that goes beyond superstition. As support for this belief, she points out that Ganesh is known in some quarters as “the writer’s god.”
“Two writers guard an archive. One writes Fiction; the other writes Fact. To get past them, you have to figure out which is which.” Recommended reading: The New Yoker‘s Jill Lepore attempts to trace the “long-lost story of the longest book ever written,” Joe Gould‘s The Oral History of Our Time.
“Delight in book collecting, and in showing off one’s book collection, is common, if not universal, among readers and would-be-readers. The biggest reason we spend money on books is because we want to read them (eventually), but that isn’t the only reason: we also like to look at them, and to look at other people looking at them.” Over at The Point, Jake Bittle considers why we collect books as opposed to simply reading them. He also points out, correctly, that books are very, very unpleasant to move, something our own Matt Seidel can confirm.
In remembrance of Maurice Sendak: a look at his life in pictures, a video of Sendak speaking on his 80th birthday, a 2006 profile from The New Yorker, a 2012 interview with Stephen Colbert, an illustrated conversation between Sendak and Art Spiegelman, and a touch of comedy from The Onion.
Following the example of Flaubert, whose Dictionary of Received Ideas compiled the clichés of its day, Teju Cole set out on Monday to record his own clichés on Twitter. At Page-Turner, he sums up his experiment in a blog post. (You may recall that this is not the first time Cole has won acclaim for his Twitter account.)