Roger Boylan at the Boston Review writes about the flourishing posthumous career of Mark Twain: “…more than 5,000 previously unknown letters of Twain’s have surfaced in the last 50 years. This represents an average of two new letters per week, but still only about one-tenth of the 50,000 or so he is believed to have written.” And at Slate, Craig Fehrman discusses the “brilliant brand management” behind the handling of Twain’s autobiography.
Interested in writing a bestseller? You may want to check out Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers‘ newest book, The Bestseller Code. Or maybe not: “At times, it seems like Archer and Jockers are trying to retrofit a closed system. They found that best-sellers have lots of contractions—the better, they explain, to mimic contemporary speech—and exclamation points only rarely … They conclude that best-sellers consist of ‘shorter, cleaner sentences, without unneeded words,’ and that best-selling characters ‘make things happen.’ Active verbs predict best-sellers better than passive verbs. ‘Hesitation doesn’t keep pages turning,’ Archer and Jockers decide. After all that work, in other words, the algorithm ends up confirming the uncontested tenets of craft and style.”
“Tracing the journey of a mediocre actor and Holocaust survivor ‘touched by some mysterious higher design’ as he forges and impersonates his way through the war and then back to the city of his birth, the story is part Samuel Beckett and part Isaac Bashevis Singer, with a sudden final bolt of O. Henry. It has the flavour of a morality tale, but what’s most fascinating to me is how difficult it is to derive a moral from it, or rather how easy it is to derive more than one and how openly they stand in conflict with each other.” Kevin Brockmeier extols the fiction of Leandro Sarmatz.
Out this week: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson; Shining Sea by Anne Korkeakivi; White Nights in Split Town City by Annie DeWitt; War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans; How to Party with an Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings; Arrowood by Laura McHugh; and The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview.
We’re thrilled by the early buzz surrounding Epic Fail, our first Millions Original eBook. You can learn more about the project courtesy of The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Teleread. Of course, you could learn even more about the project by purchasing a copy of the book.
James Gleick talks to one of the software engineers behind autocorrect, that “impish god” responsible for turning our ids to I’ds and moviestars to Natalie Portmanteaus. In response, Jen Doll wonders whether we love to hate autocorrect “because when it messes up we’re happily reminded that phones and computers are not actually smarter than people.”