The novelist Julie Schumacher wrote her latest, Dear Committee Members, entirely in the form of letters of recommendation. The format allowed her to illustrate the travails of a creative writing professor through a medium often ignored in fiction. At The Awl, Jessica Gross and Merve Emre talk about the novel. Pair with: Cathy Day on academia’s novel crisis.
"For the first half of a new book, maybe you want your back against the wall. Gunslinger style. Nothing can sneak up on you except your own bad sentences," Colson Whitehead said. He and four other authors discussed where they like to write in The New York Times. Bonus: See where our writers work.
The Guardian published a couple of fun pieces earlier this week. The first is a hilarious excerpt from Mallory Ortberg’s Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters. The second is a collection of the top ten most memorable meals in all of literature.
So does literature really have the power to bring liberals and conservatives together? Probably not. Either way, this is still a fascinating study: "The 'most startling result was this: it was conservative — not liberal — readers who are most active in producing this space of cultural compromise.' Basically, within this sample size, conservative readers tended to exude more generous praise for 'bridge books' and did so with a vernacular considered to be 'less heated or emotional.' Grammatically, they also expressed 'more complex thoughts.'"
Garth, Ben, Andrew and Max appear in today's "Digest" at The Morning News. The topic is movies based on books. Also at TMN: the Tournament of Books is underway.Readers with an interest in sales figures for books and their drawbacks should take a look at the comments of our follow-up post on the Beautiful Children free book promotion. Several anonymous commenters, whom one suspects are probably industry insiders, have shared their insights.A quick but interesting interview with Paul Theroux. This summer, Theroux's Ghost Train to the Eastern Star will be published. In it, he retraces his path from The Great Railway Bazaar thirty years ago. (via)The National Book Critics Circle Award winners have been announced. In the fiction category, Junot Díaz took home the prize for The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao. Díaz was a part of our Year in Reading in December.The finalists have been announced for the Kiriyama Prize, which recognizes books that "relate in some significant way to the Pacific Rim or South Asia, to a particular culture or part(s) of these regions, or to people from these regions." Among them is I Love Dollars by Zhu Wen, which was reviewed here by Ben, from which a blurb was used on the Kiriyama Prize site.The Stranger reminds us of our bookselling days, chasing those damn book thieves down the street.The Observer reports on two new bylines arriving at the New Yorker, Kelefa Sanneh and Ariel Levy of the New York Times and New York respectively. (via)Literary frauds are all over the news again, and the LA Times serves up a delightful accounting of hoaxers going all the way back to the 1700s. (via)We are all stereotypical readers: "The British buy books by television personalities, Americans are obsessed with self-improvement, French choices are more highbrow, the Germans like holidays while the Japanese have more eclectic tastes." (via)A new issue of The Quarterly Conversation is out. Among the offerings: over- and underrated books and Sam J. Miller's essay positing that short stories are far from dead, as some big names would have you think.Apple head honcho Steve Jobs told the New York Times in January that "people don't read anymore." The Raleigh Quarerly took umbrage and is now holding a contest that asks for submissions "featuring a main character named, uh, Steve, who reads something that transforms his life."
For The New Yorker Alex Ross describes the role Nebraska's prairies played in Willa Cather's writing, his encounters with Cather people, and how he became one himself. "From this roughshod Europe of the mind, Cather also emerged with a complex understanding of American identity. Her symphonic landscapes are inflected with myriad accents, cultures, personal narratives—all stored away in a prodigious memory. "
"The Google Translate results feel less and less lucky as the sentence progresses, and with each new roll of the search engine dice." Over the six years that Esther Allen was translating Argentine novelist Antonio Di Benedetto's classic, Zama, she would occasionally run lines through Google translate as an experiment in the ersatz. Pair with translator Alison Anderson on "Ferrante Fever" and what a great translation adds to the original work.