Jacob Silverman tackles the niceness epidemic besieging literary criticism at the moment. Where have the hatchet jobs gone? Is social media’s “communalism” robbing critics of their fangs? Each time a publication refuses to print a negative review, the act amounts to “a victory for a publicist, but not for readers,” he writes. (Just a few notes: Silverman’s piece is based on a blog post he wrote recently; Emma Straub has responded on her own blog; and, for what it’s worth, our own Michael Bourne’s recent review of Richard Ford’s Canada was pretty toothy.)
“The first sentence, itself described as a ‘decoy for attention’ in a 1930 story on the new art, is a lure within a lure, created in a new economy increasingly predicated on commercial diversification and instant appeal, in a book market that had never been so populated.” Electric Lit takes us through the history of the novel’s first sentence. Pair with our essay on the art of the opening sentence.
Paris Review co-founder Peter Matthiessen will publish a new novel in the spring of next year. Matthiessen, who won the National Book Award in 2008 for his last novel, Shadow Country, said the new novel centers on “a weeklong meditation retreat at the site of a World War II concentration camp.”
Craig Fehrman reviews Keith O’Brien’s Outside Shot, a book which follows the 2009-10 boys’ basketball team at Scott County High School in Georgetown, Kentucky. O’Brien’s book is much in the mold of Buzz Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights, writes Fehrman, in that it’s concerned with a “troubled town, precarious season, political resonance” – but it’s also a book that falters under the legacy of its predecessor.