This year, the good folks at Slate and the Whiting Foundation kicked off a new literary prize, intended to reward authors for great second novels. To wrap up the year, they’ve asked several winners of the prize, including Akhil Sharma, Helen DeWitt and Daniel Alarcon, to write short pieces about objects that symbolize the writing process for their books. (Akhil Sharma chooses a stopwatch, while Eileen Myles chooses a can of Cafe Bustelo.)
What do you do if you’re Leo Tolstoy, 20 years old and being treated in isolation for venereal disease? Start a diary, of course. Because you’re Tolstoy, you’ll probably use this diary to make a plan of your day, and then comment on how your actual activities line up with your ideals (“not quite,” usually). And, to be as Tolstoy-ish as possible, why not rate all your actions on a general moral scale? An example: “Arose somewhat late and read, but did not have time to write. Poiret came, I fenced, and did not send him away (sloth and cowardice). Ivanov came, I spoke with him for too long (cowardice). Koloshin (Sergei) came to drink vodka, I did not escort him out (cowardice).” And so on. For some long-term perspective, pair with The Millions‘s perennially popular “Tolstoy or Dostoevsky? 8 Experts on Who’s Greater.”
A group at NYU’s journalism school has named “The Top Ten Works of Journalism of the Decade in the United States.” Four of these are books: Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s Random Family, Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower, Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side, and Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed.
Millions readers in New York: Please join us tonight at McNally Jackson bookstore in Manhattan to celebrate the release of The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books. I’ll be joined by my co-editor Jeff Martin, as well as Reif Larsen and some of the book’s other contributors, including Millions staff writers Garth Risk Hallberg and Emily St. John Mandel. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!
Full Stop will be celebrating five years in January as an online literary journal. To commemorate the anniversary, they’re publishing their first-ever book, collecting the very best writing from their website and featuring blurbs by anyone who makes a donation to the magazine. Pair with this Millions piece on the art of blurb writing.