“The books that I remember best are the ones I stole in Mexico City, between the ages of sixteen and nineteen, and the ones I bought in Chile when I was twenty, during the first few months of the coup.” The New York Review of Books Blog posts an essay by — you guessed it — Roberto Bolaño.
Starting today and lasting until the end of the summer, The New Yorker is completely free online, including archives back to 2007. What to read? To start off, try searching the fiction page for, say, George Saunders. There’s that famous Lawrence Wright piece on Scientology. Or feel free to consult the magazine’s own roundup. But I happen to be most impressed by this grandaddy of all longform articles on six survivors of Hiroshima (subscription required).
If you can’t sit through a 20-minute reading, this one’s for you. Even Dostoevsky hated literary readings. As his narrator puts it, “Generally I have observed that at a light, public literary reading, even the biggest genius cannot occupy the public with himself for more than 20 minutes with impunity.” Pair with this Millions essay on the lively and maybe lost art of the literary reading.
Not every worthy book finds the audience it deserves as quickly as Edan Lepucki’s California. John Warner writes about the long aftermath of finding his debut, The Funny Man, featured in our 2011 Most Anticipated Book Preview: “I wondered, what if? Maybe this was going to be the next phase of my life, and when people asked me what I did, I’d say that I wrote novels.” His new collection of short stories is Tough Day for the Army.
Sometimes, a writer needs to live in the setting of his or her fiction, as was the case with William Faulkner, who famously took a train from Hollywood to Mississippi solely to break through his writer’s block. Other times, they need to move away to find the inspiration to write about their home. In The Globe and Mail, Marsha Lederman writes about Emma Hooper, who credits her move to England with helping her write a novel set in her native Saskatchewan.