Will Self, whose novel Umbrella was recently tapped for the Booker Prize Longlist, talks about his literary influences with The Browser. For what it’s worth, here’s Self’s take on writing with the specific goal of a literary prize in mind: “I don’t know any writers who are trying to be clever and get a literary prize. Who the fuck would bother with such a thing?”
“His books are not only obviously produced by an obsessive film buff (as evidenced by one wry recurring trick, the dates in brackets that follow even citations of celluloid ephemera), they often seem to want to be movies, as shown by another signature device, the way his protagonists – from the 1890s European spies and 1950s New Yorkers in the interwoven narratives of his debut, V. in 1963, all the way to Inherent Vice and Bleeding Edge in 2013 – break anti-naturalistically into song like characters in musicals.” An argument that Thomas Pynchon writes fiction tailor-made for the cinema.
“if I am going to set a novel in a real place, in a real time, I must get all the details right. I should not put a wall around Washington Square, start the Iraq War in 2005, or claim that maple trees bear acorns. This matters because it has to do with keeping faith with your readers. If you get something verifiable wrong, why should they believe you when you really are making things up?” Helen Benedict for Amazon Author Insights on finding the balance between research and imagination when writing fiction. (Full disclosure, Amazon helps us pay the bills around here!)
Masha Gessen (who recently agreed to write a book on the Boston bombers) told a journalist in New Zealand she’s “probably” moving out of Russia. Why? “It’s one thing to bring up your kids in a place that’s risky and difficult; I think in many ways it’s enriching them, and I’m glad my kids have that experience,” she said. “It’s another thing to bring up your kids in a place that’s hopeless. “
Literary prizes are nothing new, but prizes that give writers real estate are a thoroughly modern development. At Salon, Michele Filgate investigates our odd new economy, in which lucky writers win leases to homes, inns and (in one case) a goat farm. You could also read our own Nick Ripatrazone on the Amtrak residency.
In a long tradition of online experimentation, Amazon has now started including something called “Shopping-enabled Wikipedia Pages” in its internal search results (see the second result here). Now you can view a copy of Wikipedia pages for authors like David Foster Wallace, J.K. Rowling, Jonathan Franzen, and probably thousands of others. How can Amazon do this? Wikipedia pages are free for anyone to reuse for almost any purpose, so long as the license info is displayed. Why is Amazon doing this? It wants free content that it can monetize.