Point: Dan Chaon believes younger writers should read more contemporary writing before attempting to be published themselves. Counterpoint: J. Robert Lennon believes most contemporary writing is a waste of would-be writers’ precious time. TL;DR Version: Nathan Elwood notes that if writers “want to change the face of literary fiction … [they should] at least know what it looks like.”
Have novels about love lost their gravitas as women's liberation and divorce culture have taken over? Adelle Waldman doesn't think so. In The New Yorker, she defends the timelessness of the marriage plot. "As long as marriage and love and relationships have high stakes for us emotionally, they have the potential to offer rich subject material for novelists, no matter how flimsy or comparatively uninteresting contemporary relationships seem on their surface." Pair with: Our Jeffrey Eugenides essay on writing The Marriage Plot, which is referenced several times in Waldman's essay.
Francine Prose has an idiosyncratic theory that the Hindu god Ganesh is a vital part of her writing process. In a VQR essay, she explains that her portrait of the deity (which she purchased forty years ago at a bazaar in Mumbai) gives her a kind of confidence that goes beyond superstition. As support for this belief, she points out that Ganesh is known in some quarters as “the writer’s god.”
“If Gwendolyn Brooks wrote fiction, we’d say she was brilliant at world-building–but the world she builds is the real one, the part that didn’t used to make it into the pages of literary magazines.” On the continued relevance of Brooks’s poetry in the context of racial violence in Chicago. Pair with a piece on the power of reading poetry aloud.
Sara Nović writes for The Believer about the deaf protagonist of Stephen King’s The Stand. As she explains it, “This is the plight of the average deaf character: to be plagued by the hearing author’s own discomfort with the idea of silence.” Pair with Lydia Kiesling’s Millions essay on King.