Phillip Roth talks to David L. Ulin at the Los Angeles Times about his latest novel Nemesis, aging as a writer, and how he begins each new novel: “I don’t know very much… I write my way into my knowledge. Then, if I’m lucky, I get a break.”
One of the surprises of last week’s James Beard Awards was the runaway success of McSweeney’s offshoot Lucky Peach, which ended up taking home five out of seventeen awards. On John Birdsall’s Tumblr, you can read one of the winning essays, which bears the attention-grabbing title of “America, Your Food Is So Gay.” (Related: Jessica Ferri on food writing.)
Along with D.T. Max, Laura Miller, and Jason Kottke, I’ll be participating in this week’s discussion of Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace over at New York Magazine.
Over at Threepenny Review, Jess Row expounds on “blandness” in the work of Haruki Murakami, and particularly in his 2.8 lb. tome 1Q84—a book tabbed by Charles Baxter in last year’s Year in Reading as the best he’d read all year. Row contemplates the way Murakami’s characters and sentences “almost never lose this placid, observant neutrality,” or “continuous monotone.”
George Saunders shares his thoughts on writing his first full-length novel, the forthcoming Lincoln in the Bardo. As he puts it, “It’s like when you’re writing your first book, and you’re trying to figure out what kind of writer you are. This was like that.” Pair with our own Elizabeth Minkel’s piece on Saunders and the question of literary greatness.
“The notebook is where our interior world makes contact with our exterior world; where our instinct for creation is first made material. Our notebooks are our first messy attempts at self-expression, and the ways in which we express ourselves are changing every day.” Sarah Gerard explores the life of the notebook in an essay for Hazlitt. Pair with our own Hannah Gersen‘s look at other methods writers use to keep their ideas straight, from calendars to collages.
In Florida, legislators are wondering whether or not they should raise tuition costs for students studying the humanities, or really anything other than STEM fields. Likewise, James Dyson (yes, the vacuum guy) bemoans Britain’s abundance of “students choosing to read humanities at university.” As a rejoinder, one New Statesman blogger notes that the study of humanities does not inhibit technological innovation, and that as a bonus, “we gain from having people who reshape our cultural landscape and put things in new contexts.”
What is it like to work for a major book publisher? In an excerpt from the new reprint of her My Misspent Youth, Meghan Daum discusses the myth of the glamorous editorial job, one in which no time is wasted reading self-help books and unauthorized biographies of cable stars. As she explains it, “We’re secretaries fully versed in Derrida, receptionists who have read Proust in French.” Also check out our own Hannah Gersen’s review of Daum’s latest essay collection The Unspeakable.
“Where is the black version of Caddie Woodlawn (a 19th-century Wisconsin tomboy) or Harriet the Spy (a 20th-century Upper East Sider), smart, spunky, fictional heroines for the tween crowd?” Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon fictionalize beloved Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston as a girl detective in Zora and Me.