New this week are The New Republic by Lionel Shriver, The Sugar Frosted Nutsack by Mark Leyner, Suddenly, a Knock at the Door by Etgar Keret, W.G. Sebald’s Across the Land and the Water: Selected Poems, 1964-2001, and The Complete Poems of Philip Larkin.
“Rather than outlining your plot in chronological order, try outlining your plot as if it were a candle burning at both ends. Begin the process by writing your first and last chapter simultaneously.” Amazon Author Insights gathers, well, insights on writing from Dan Brown and other famous crime and thriller novelists. (Full disclosure: Amazon helps us pay the bills around here!) We will also never not recommend this evergreen piece from our own archives, of writers on the best advice they ever received.
In his column in the Chicago Tribune today, Eric Zorn describes a particularly ugly incident that occurred at a library not far from where I live. Somebody set fire to a number of books at the John Merlo branch of the Chicago Public Library. Making matters worse, it appears as though the arsonist targeted the gay and lesbian books section of the library, which itself is located in a neighborhood with a large gay population. From Zorn’s column: Staffers detected the fire quickly and used an extinguisher to put it out before anyone was hurt. The library remained open, and if you visit there today, the only reminders of the incident are gaps on several shelves where destroyed books used to sit.But the location makes it a bigger event. For both symbolic and safety reasons, the idea of arson in the stacks, no matter how relatively unsuccessful, is chilling. Public libraries are not only embodiments of liberty but, with all that paper, prospective tinderboxes.More chilling still to many is that the unknown arsonist chose to set the fire in the heart of the Chicago area’s largest unified collection of gay and lesbian-oriented books.Zorn explores the topic further at his blog explaining why he decided to devote his column to what was, admittedly, a very minor fire, wondering “Do we not, in some ways, magnify the power of a hate crime when we publicize it?”I’m glad he decided to write the column. Coming on the heels of a book-banning attempt in a nearby school district, it’s been a rough couple of months for books in the Chicago area.Update: It turns out it wasn’t a hate crime. As Eric Zorn explains, they caught the culprit, a 21-year-old homeless woman who set the fire because “she was angry at library staff for being rude to her.”
Jeff Chang, whose Can’t Stop Wont Stop I just can’t recommend enough for anyone interested in the history of hip hop, has a great piece in the LARB on rap music and the 1992 LA Riots. The LA Times also ran a compelling essay on Toddy Tee, N.W.A. and other prescient west coast MCs, the forefathers of what became commercial gangsta rap.
One in ten residents of Iceland will publish something in their lifetime. (Compare that to the United States.) And all residents receive the bókatíðindi – a volume listing approximately 90% of all books being published in Iceland – free of charge. Indeed, as Mark Medley notes, when it comes to literary ambitions, the Land of Fire and Ice is “punching above its weight class.”