After reviewing a selection of new books on Godlessness, self-described disappointed disbeliever Christopher Beha wonders if literature can fill the spiritual voids of atheism. Our own Garth Risk Hallberg also investigated a slew of New Atheist books just last year.
Adding to a review by Pamela Erens for The Millions, Zoë Heller reads Janet Malcolm’s Forty One False Starts for the New York Review of Books. Among other things, she concludes that the writer’s job, at least in Malcolm’s estimation, is “to vanquish mess.” (You could also read a review in The Nation I wrote about a few weeks ago.)
Year in Reading alumnus Alexander Chee writes about the impulse to write fiction, his first novel, and unpublished manuscripts in an essay for the Center For Fiction’s Why Fiction Matters series. “The first story I ever invented for public consumption was in a book report back in grade school. I had made a vow to read every book in my grade school library, and at some point, as I made my way through them, I remember very clearly understanding that there was simply no way my teacher would know about every book ever published—this was before the Internet—and so I decided I would make one up and see if she noticed.” Pair with this Millions piece, featuring six writers looking back on their first novels.
Garth, Ben, Andrew and Max appear in today’s “Digest” at The Morning News. The topic is movies based on books. Also at TMN: the Tournament of Books is underway.Readers with an interest in sales figures for books and their drawbacks should take a look at the comments of our follow-up post on the Beautiful Children free book promotion. Several anonymous commenters, whom one suspects are probably industry insiders, have shared their insights.A quick but interesting interview with Paul Theroux. This summer, Theroux’s Ghost Train to the Eastern Star will be published. In it, he retraces his path from The Great Railway Bazaar thirty years ago. (via)The National Book Critics Circle Award winners have been announced. In the fiction category, Junot Díaz took home the prize for The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao. Díaz was a part of our Year in Reading in December.The finalists have been announced for the Kiriyama Prize, which recognizes books that “relate in some significant way to the Pacific Rim or South Asia, to a particular culture or part(s) of these regions, or to people from these regions.” Among them is I Love Dollars by Zhu Wen, which was reviewed here by Ben, from which a blurb was used on the Kiriyama Prize site.The Stranger reminds us of our bookselling days, chasing those damn book thieves down the street.The Observer reports on two new bylines arriving at the New Yorker, Kelefa Sanneh and Ariel Levy of the New York Times and New York respectively. (via)Literary frauds are all over the news again, and the LA Times serves up a delightful accounting of hoaxers going all the way back to the 1700s. (via)We are all stereotypical readers: “The British buy books by television personalities, Americans are obsessed with self-improvement, French choices are more highbrow, the Germans like holidays while the Japanese have more eclectic tastes.” (via)A new issue of The Quarterly Conversation is out. Among the offerings: over- and underrated books and Sam J. Miller’s essay positing that short stories are far from dead, as some big names would have you think.Apple head honcho Steve Jobs told the New York Times in January that “people don’t read anymore.” The Raleigh Quarerly took umbrage and is now holding a contest that asks for submissions “featuring a main character named, uh, Steve, who reads something that transforms his life.”
You wouldn’t think Grendel’s mother would win any awards for being a great mom, but Oyster is giving accolades to literature’s most horrifying mothers in honor of the holiday. The list also includes Madame Bovary’s Emma Bovary as the most selfish mother and Pride and Prejudice’s Mrs. Bennet as most nettlesome mother.