It is well known that Vladimir Nabokov and Edmund Wilson had one of the more visible falling outs in literary history over the former’s English-language Eugene Onegin translation, and indeed the history of that relationship’s souring is fascinating. But even still, it’s extremely interesting to read Nabokov’s nine-page “Reply” to Wilson’s “adverse criticism.” If nothing else, one has to wonder what Wilson was thinking when he brought a knife to a gun fight.
Dwight Garner, writing in the current issue of The New York Times Magazine, laments that so many high-end American novelists seem to be working on “the nine-year plan,” delivering a new novel roughly once a decade. He cites Jeffrey Eugenides, who will be out soon with The Marriage Plot, his third novel in 18 years, along with such slow cookers as Jonathan Franzen, Donna Tartt and Michael Chabon. One name Garner neglected to mention is the Pulitzer Prize-winner William Kennedy, who will be out next month with Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes, the eighth installment in his Albany cycle and his first novel since Roscoe appeared nine years and nine months ago. Look for our review of it here next month.
Is “literary” fiction just a product of clever marketing? Elizabeth Edmondson thinks it is. At The Guardian, she argues that classically literary authors like Jane Austen had no idea they were writing Literature — posterity classified their work as such later on. Her essay dovetails nicely with our own Edan Lepucki’s argument that literature is a genre.
“Well, is ‘addiction’ what a literary writer should want in readers? And if a writer accepts such addiction, or even rejoices in it, as Murakami seems to, doesn’t it put pressure on him, as pusher, to offer more of the same?” Tim Parks writes for the NYRB about writers who keep producing more of the same to please hungry readers.
As the various Occupy protests endure another week, Todd Gitlin‘s excellent piece in the LA Review of Books is an eloquent exploration of what the movement means. Across the country, Brooklyn-based n+1‘s ambitious gazette, Occupy!, is available for free download (PDF).