“It just goes to show you: it’s not just luck you need to have a successful literary career. It’s luck, piled on luck, piled on luck again, and around the corner, you need another sprinkling of it” says Michelle Dean, after investigating Stephen King’s rise in response partly to Dwight Allen’s “Snob Notes” on the author. Colin Dickey and Sarah Langan have both previously weighed on on Allen’s essay and King’s particular strengths.
“What matters is you, all alone at your desk at five in the morning.” We’ve come a long way from Dear Abby and Ann Landers, says Megan Marz in an essay for The Point, in which she looks at a younger generation of columnists that includes Cheryl Strayed, Heather Havrilesky, and Kristen Dombek. And speaking of advice! Have you checked out our new writing-advice counselors Swarm and Spark? No? Well then hie yourself to their column already!
“I was interested enough in WikiLeaks, state transparency, and emergent opposition networks to do five years in prison over such things, but I wasn’t interested enough that I would have voluntarily plowed through 500 pages of badly plotted failed-marriage razzmatazz by an author who’s long past his expiration date simply in order to learn what the Great King of the Honkies thinks about all this.” Barrett Brown reviews Jonathan Franzen’s Purity from prison. Pair with our own Lydia Kiesling’s review of the book.
In August of 1911, Franz Kafka and his future literary executor Max Brod paid a visit to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa. It was, all told, a weird time to make such a trip, because a week before the two arrived in Paris, crafty thieves abducted the famous painting. So why did they go if there wasn’t a painting to see? To look at the absence, of course. (h/t Arts and Letters Daily)
Congratulations to our own Garth Risk Hallberg, who was a finalist for the Nona A. Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, awarded by the NBCC. Critic William Deresiewicz took home the prize. We wrote up the finalists in the fiction and non-fiction categories yesterday.