Jennifer Egan recently spoke with Willing Davidson, fiction editor of The New Yorker, as part of Rewiring the Real, a yearlong series of podcasts with writers about the interplay of literature, technology and religion. Rachel Hurn, a former Millions intern, was there and noted Egan’s ambivalence towards “personal writing.” [Updated to correct the quote] “If writing necessarily meant writing about myself, then I’d rather do something else,” Egan said.
Adding to the general hand-wringing over the state of the humanities, Lee Siegel contradicts Leon Wieseltier’s lament that fewer college students are majoring in literature by contending that modern literature courses ruin the joy of reading. “For every college professor who made Shakespeare or Lawrence come alive for the lucky few,” he writes, “there were countless others who made the reading of literary masterpieces seem like two hours in the periodontist’s chair.” (You can also read a similar argument from a humanities professor in The New Republic.)
“All war literature, across the centuries, bears witness to certain eternal truths: the death and chaos encountered, minute by minute; the bonds of love and loyalty among soldiers; the bad dreams and worse anxieties that afflict many of those lucky enough to return home.” In an omnibus review for The New York Times Michiko Kakutani looks at the fiction and journalism being written about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including recent Year in Reading alum and National Book Award winner Phil Klay‘s Redeployment and Dexter Filkins’s The Forever War, “the one book that most fluently and kaleidoscopically captures both the micro and the macro of Iraq.” She also wonders, and attempts to explain, “why has there been no big, symphonic Iraq or Afghanistan novel?”
In TNR, Ruth Franklin attempts to debunk the “strangely antiquated definition of American writing” posited in Dalkey’s Best European Fiction anthology. (via)
“Any day’s news supplies plots so fantastic that most make-believe story lines pale in comparison.” Author John Altman in the LA Times about the difficulty of writing fiction during Trump’s presidency. “My current novel-in-progress concerns North Korea,” writes Altman, “and each day’s headlines endanger its premise. But too much second-guessing hobbles a writer. One can only take a deep breath, remind oneself that war with North Korea would jeopardize much more than a humble spy thriller, and forge ahead, hoping for the best.”