When you sit down with Junot Díaz , “lunch conversation runs like an advanced literary seminar taught by a bilingual stand-up comedian.”
"We live in the age of opinion — offered instantly, effusively and in increasingly strident tones. Much of it goes by the name of criticism, and in the most superficial sense this is accurate." The New York Times approached six accomplished critics, Stephen Burns, Katie Roiphe, Pankaj Mishra, Adam Kirsch, Sam Anderson, and Elif Batuman to explain, in the spirit of Alfred Kazin, "what it is they do, why they do it and why it matters."
If I had been near enough to a computer and had enough time to blog over the last month, I probably would have talked about Nicholson Baker's new book, Checkpoint. I haven't read it, so I can only comment on the reactions that I have seen to the book. Most have been negative. The book is about two friends who are sitting in a hotel room having a conversation. One character wants to assassinate President George W. Bush, the other is trying to talk him out of it. The subject matter alone seems to come from a desire to create controversy, and though Baker and his publisher have gone out of their way to condemn violence, Baker has said that he was motivated by his own personal anger to write the book. If you ask me, controversial subject matter + short book (115 pages in this case) + rush to press = literary publicity stunt, and many, including the New York Times agree.Readers of fiction looking for a weekly dose and writers of fiction looking for an audience should check out Weekly Reader, a little website that delivers a story to your inbox every week.Poaching two great links from Arts & Letters Daily: Jonathan Yardley loves Hunter S. Thompson's new collection of pieces from ESPN.com's page 2, Hey Rube; and Tibor Fischer discusses the current slate of Booker hopefuls.
Despite recently winning the Booker Prize, Howard Jacobson writes a list of his favorite novels about failure for the WSJ: "This category is, of necessity, a crowded one. Novelists are drawn to failure. Those who prosper, or expect to prosper, in the world as it is have no need to re-imagine it."
“Sitting down to read The Actress, Amy Sohn’s newest novel, is even better than standing in line at the grocery store while the person in front of you disputes the price of a carton of orange juice, giving you extra time to read the tabloids. The Actress might be as licentious as a tabloid, but it is far more intelligently written. And, you probably won’t be reading it while standing in line inside a grocery store.”