Tom Wolfe has a chance to defend (er, ward off?) his 2004 “Bad Sex Award” following Literary Review‘s decision to nominate him for this year’s top honors (er, dishonors?). The UK publication has tapped Back to Blood and seven others for this year’s shortlist — and, despite popular demand, they managed to spare J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. For some revealing passages from Wolfe’s book, check out my review.
We tend to assume that life stories, in mentally healthy people, are concrete things, assembled from events that are hard to twist or distort. Yet all of us shape our own stories in ways we can’t always see. At The Atlantic, Julie Beck explores the idea that life stories, as we construct them, form integral parts of our personalities.
Javier Marías cogently summarizes all the reasons to stop writing novels immediately, and adds only one reason to write them anyway: “Fiction is the most bearable of worlds.” We reviewed The Infatuations, one of his own twelve works (to date), last year.
The London Review of Books Blog reports that the personal library of late novelist David Markson has been scattered among the stacks at New York’s Strand bookstore, filled with notes, check marks and underlined passages. Some comments found scrawled in his copy of DeLillo’s White Noise: “oh god the pomposity, the bullshit!” and “oh i get it, it’s a sci-fi novel!”
Recent Year in Reading alum Rebecca Makkai writes about the difference between publishing your first book and your second book for Ploughshares. Let’s just say it’s the difference between champagne and “all the whiskey.” Pair with Zhanna Slor‘s Millions interview with Makkai in which they discuss that second book, The Hundred-Year House.
Journalist and author Simon Winchester highlights five books “that shed light on the social history of his adopted homeland, from the late 19th century to the Great Depression.” We’re pleased to see Millions Hall-of-Famer Stoner make the cut.