“The only kind of drama is human drama. What matters is how deep you dig.” At the Ploughshares blog, a case for science fiction over “dysfunctional family dramas.”
The Corrections might never make it to screen, but Jonathan Franzen’s New Yorker essay on songbird poaching, “Emptying the Skies” (behind the paywall), is already a documentary. The film follows a group of bird lovers trying to save the endangered animals and even includes an interview with Franzen. Although the documentary just found a distributor, there is no word on an official release date. Until then, here’s the trailer.
“I’m trying to think of something really suitable to say. What do you think I should say? Look, you tell me what to say and I’ll say it.” That was Doris Lessing, who found out she’d won the Nobel Prize from a group of journalists who surrounded her when she was exiting a taxi. NPR has that great audio, plus other reactions of former Nobel literature laureates, including Toni Morrison, William Faulkner, and Mario Vargas Llosa.
Our own fearless editor-in-chief, Lydia Kiesling, admires Lessing, but felt rather differently about reading one of her most famous works, The Golden Notebook: “Among other things, she did an uncanny job of creating a malaise that was actually infectious. It oozed right off the page and into my own spirit.”
Patti Smith’s M Train was released this Tuesday. Geoffrey O’Brien reviews her memoir at The New York Review of Books: “Perhaps M Train represents the attempt by someone whose career is as public as can be imagined to stake out a zone of inviolable privacy, albeit through the public act of writing a book meant for publication.” Need more music? Check out our Torch Ballads and Jukebox Music column.
“What if, instead of simply critiquing Go Set a Watchman’s failure, we tried to analyze it? The new, older work makes more sense if we read it as an attempt to accomplish two tasks: first, to master—unsuccessfully, it turns out—the smart-magazine style that Harper Lee developed in her student journalism; and second, to write in a genre that often relied on the ironic elisions typical of ‘smart style’: the midcentury social-problem novel.” Tom Perrin on Harper Lee and the social novel. Pair with Michael Bourne’s Millions review.
Are people losing interest in fiction that “offers more questions than answers?” In her book Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel, Jane Smiley suggested that modern readers have little taste for uncertainty. At The Rumpus, Rob Roberge asks how much this contributes to popular disinterest in literature.