In a big week for new releases, we have Lev Grossman’s The Magician King, the sequel to his blockbuster debut The Magicians; Nicholson Baker’s House of Holes, reviewed here today; another new Geoff Dyer book, The Missing of the Somme; DBC Pierre’s Lights Out in Wonderland; and Kevin Wilson’s debut novel The Family Fang (which one blurber calls The Royal Tenenbaums meets Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf). Four of the five books above, incidentally, were featured in our big second-half preview. And out in a paperback this week are a pair of award winners: Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies and David Grossman’s To the End of the Land.
On The Nervous Breakdown this week, J.E. Fishman considers the book review practices of The New York Times: “My view is very much eastern, very much old school, where a book review from the Times was the only sure sign that an author had arrived. But maybe it’s time to rethink that, and this rethinking has been long overdue.”
“Still, it’s difficult to know whether [Shel] Silverstein, who died of a heart attack in 1999, after keeping out of the public eye for more than two decades, meant for us to read the book so conclusively. His biography and body of work suggest a subtler, and, in the end, perhaps an even more troubling, way of looking at it.” Ruth Margalit on The Giving Tree.
For Buzzfeed Rachel Vorona Cote explores Eve Babitz and the white literary It Girl. “Readers, particularly literary women in their twenties and thirties, seem to be entranced by this child of Hollywood, who unabashedly relished her LA milieu and both chronicled and defended its paradoxes. But it’s still a milieu that flattens the city into one that is homogenous, wealthy, and white.” Pair with this essay about her novel Sex and Rage.
Over at the Story Prize blog, Year in Reading alumnus Colum McCann shares a letter of advice to writers starting their career. As he puts it, “A story begins long before its first word. It ends long after its last… [it] reveal[s] a truth that isn’t yet there.”
The New Yorker has launched an online-only series dedicated to the novella, featuring longer works of fiction the magazine isn’t able to fit into print. “The novella is not, usually, an expanded story. Rather, it is a contracted novel, in which the omissions cover much ground. It is more ambitious than a story, denser and more gemlike than a novel.” Callan Wink’s In Hindsight launches the series, with an interview with the author.