The sound level of a typical quiet bedroom measures 30 decibels, but what if you still can’t concentrate on your reading? Well, maybe you should move to Minneapolis and use Steven Orfield’s “anechoic chamber,” which at -9 decibels is officially the quietest room in the world.
New releases this week include The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood, a limited edition of Stephen King’s illustrated poem The Dark Man and The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, which we covered as part of our Great Second-Half 2013 Book Preview. Now available in paperback is Alice Munro’s Dear Life.
“Start with the novel’s climax (often the first thing you know about it, its most striking moment) and work backward, asking why-why-why. Then write forward.” Nell Zink at The Lithub on how to become a novelist in 10 easy steps. See also our interview with Zink from last week.
Recently there’s been a lot of talk about the famously reclusive Harper Lee, and with good reason – her long-awaited second book, Go Set A Watchman, was released last week, and isn’t quite what readers expected. Over at The Atlantic, Ari N. Schulman takes a slightly different approach to Lee and her work by focusing instead on Maurice Cain, Lee’s longtime agent, friend, and “co-conspirator.”
A new library has been designed for the small village of Huairou on the outskirts of Beijing. Instead of adding a new building inside the village center, the architects chose a site in the nearby mountains, a pleasant five minute walk from the village center. “In doing so we could provide a setting of clear thoughts when one consciously takes the effort to head for the reading room.”
Whether you admire the work of e.e. cummings or think of him mainly as the inspiration for your high school’s worst poet, you’ll enjoy this excerpt of Susan Cheever’s new biography, which touches on the poet’s later years and his relationship with Cheever’s father. The two (contrasting) money quotes here are Malcolm Cowley’s claim that cummings was “the most brilliant monologuist I have known” and this exasperated question posed by Helen Vendler: “What is wrong with a man who writes this?
“The real world is massive and chaotic beyond the scope of any story, but the novel has always been the storytelling medium that could come closest to capturing it. And the novels that dared to really try – from Hugo to Tolstoy – are often the ones that have endured.” That’s not to say, of course, that bigger is always better, and in an article for The Guardian Damien Walter argues against the current glut of epic, serialized fantasy novels taking their cues from George R.R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire. As Walter puts it, “There are great fantasy short stories, novellas and single novels that deserve much wider audiences, but are sidelined by the industry’s unhealthy fixation with the serial format. It’s time for the fantasy genre to tell some new – shorter – stories.”