Jonathan Franzen spent the first half of his life thinking about literature, now he plans to devote the other half to birds. It looks like Freedom is becoming reality as he puts on his bird-watching binoculars again to discuss the “appalling” songbird hunting in the Mediterranean for National Geographic.
“The purpose of being a serious writer is not to express oneself, and it is not to make something beautiful, though one might do those things anyway. Those things are beside the point. The purpose of being a serious writer is to keep people from despair. If you keep that in mind always, the wish to make something beautiful or smart looks slight and vain in comparison. If people read your work and, as a result, choose life, then you are doing your job.” Year in Reading alumna Sarah Manguso on envy and the purpose of writing. Pair with Jaime Green’s Millions review of Manguso’s Ongoingness.
This Thursday, at Housing Works Bookstore in New York, Garth will represent The Millions in a live quiz show called (accurately) Don’t Know Much About Literature. Kenneth C. and Jenny Davis, authors of DKMAL, the book, will host. Co-contestants include Jason Boog of Galleycat, Ed Champion of Reluctant Habits, Jason Toal of HTML GIANT, Catherine Lacey, and Buzz Poole of Mark Batty Publisher. We’re told buzzers and beer are in the offing, and that second round contestants “include you!” We’d love to see you there.
“If one-sentence stories are as common as snowflakes, one-sentence novels are as rare as white ravens.” At The New Yorker, Brad Leithauser writes about the one-sentence novel or the point when the story builds to a particular sentence. To give you an example, here’s one of his favorites from Lolita: “I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art.”
Sometimes the most important issues are the most difficult to discuss. While a conversation about diversity in literature has started, The New Republic asks us why socioeconomic status is often left out of the conversation. Our essay on the rise and fall of the creative class pairs nicely.