The office novel, by nature, is a tricky construct, if only because your average white-collar job doesn’t offer much in the way of fiction-worthy moments. That said, recent books like Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris demonstrate how fruitful it can be to wring drama out of the rat race. In the latest issue of Dissent, Cubed author Nikil Saval delves into the contradictions of office fiction. FYI, Saval wrote a Year in Reading entry for us.
Paula Fox, celebrated novelist and winner of the 1983 National Book Award (among other honors), died this week. Contributing to our Year in Reading series two years ago, Parul Sehgal said she couldn’t stop rereading Desperate Characters, perhaps Fox’s most popular book for adults. “It’s really a wallop of a book,” Sehgal wrote. “A barbed portrait of a marriage, not to mention a brilliant take on gentrification, white fears of black and brown people, the hostile insularity of the nuclear family, and how power reproduces and how power conceals itself.” (Bonus: Dominic Smith wants to send a scene from that novel into space.)
"Time goes all stretchy in the Twittersphere, just as it does in those folk songs in which the hero spends a night with the queen of the faeries and then returns to find that 100 years have passed and all his friends are dead…" Margaret Atwood talks Twitter with Robert McCrum.
Want a book blurb from Margaret Atwood? Expect a poem instead. Atwood has retired from the blurbing business and now declines in rhyming verse. "But now I am aging; my brain is all shrunk,/And my adjective store is depleted;/My hair's getting stringy, I walk as though drunk;/ As a quotester I'm nigh-on defeated." Pair with our essays on the blurbing blunder: a history of blurbs, blurbs as publicity stunts, and the fundamental question — to blurb or not to blurb?