Umberto Eco, Italian semiotician and author of works such as Theory of Semiotics and The Name of the Rose, has died at 84. His most famous work, The Name of the Rose, was adapted in a film starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater. Reflect on his life by revisiting Hillary Kelly’s review of Confessions of a Young Novelist.
Why is it okay to say “I’m working on a novel” but not okay to say “I’m working on my novel”? The former is a normal, straightforward, expression, while the latter smacks of arrogance and self-absorption. At Bookforum, Jesse Barron writes about the oddity of Working on My Novel, a collection of retweets (you read that correctly) of writers telling the world about their labors. It might also be a good time to read Dominic Smith on the number of novelists at work in America. (h/t Arts and Letters Daily)
“In order to overcome their creative challenges, the authors I interviewed didn’t need to write prettier sentences: They needed to become more disciplined, more generous, braver. Literature seems to require these qualities of us, somehow, both in writing and in reading.” Joe Fassler‘s “By Heart” series at The Atlantic provides us with another year’s worth of writing wisdom, including advice from Alexander Chee, Michael Chabon, Lydia Millet, et al. We also highly recommend the conversation between Chee, Emily Barton, and Whitney Terrell about the decade each of them took to see their novels realized in the world.
It’s 2014, but we still don’t have self-driving cars despite Isaac Asimov’s predictions. In 1964, Asimov contemplated what the world would be like 50 years later. He was fairly accurate according to David Wogan at Scientific American. “Asimov got a lot right…about how technology keeps advancing at a rapid clip, freeing humans from mundane and routine tasks. It’s the Google-fication of everything.”
“The female writers whose work has most recently come in for enthusiastic appraisal are by no means a homogeneous group; their influences, preoccupations and style vary wildly.” The Guardian profiles six women authors – Beryl Bainbridge, Anita Brookner, Angela Carter, Jenny Diski, Elizabeth Jane Howard, and Molly Keane – whose posthumous legacies continue to grow. Alix Hawley wrote a fantastic tribute to Brookner here earlier this year, noting, “[n]obody does depression quite so elegantly.”
Ever got the feeling that literary life used to be a lot more glamorous? Well, thanks to this review, we now have some proof that it was. In The Times Literary Supplement, a review of Antonia Fraser’s new memoir, which includes her memories of meeting the Queen and dancing with T.S. Eliot. (h/t Arts and Letters Daily)
At The Guardian, Jhumpa Lahiri recounts the path that led her to write her latest book in Italian, one of the most anticipated books of 2016. As she puts it, “A week after arriving [in Rome], I open my diary to describe our misadventures and I do something strange, unexpected. I write my diary in Italian. I do it almost automatically, spontaneously. I do it because when I take the pen in my hand I no longer hear English in my brain. During this period when everything confuses me, everything unsettles me, I change the language I write in.”