We’ve already decided that it’s okay for fictional characters to be unlikable, but what about nonfiction writers? At the VQR blog, Jennifer Niesslein interviews essayists on whether their success is based on how amiable they are. “I think it’s ridiculous to expect to like someone who wrote a book you love, but the increasing visibility of writers on social media—who are expected to be the ambassadors of their books—amps up the pressure to be well-liked,” Cheryl Strayed said.
At N+1, Marco Roth autopsies “the neuronovel” – think Motherless Brooklyn (Tourette’s), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (autism), Lowboy (paranoid schizophrenia), The Echo Maker (Capgras syndrome), and Atmospheric Disturbances (Capgras again?) – and finds “sign[s] of the novel’s diminishing purview.”
“I’m not a journalist, and I don’t pretend to be one, and most of the pieces in there were assigned to me by Harper’s, with these sort of maddening instructions of, you know, just go to a certain spot and kind of, you know, turn 350 degrees a few times and tell us what you see.” Tom Scocca posts a five-part transcript of a phone interview he did with David Foster Wallace in February 1998. (Thanks, Nick.)
Name a famous person, living or dead, you’d like to have dinner with. If you answered “Henry Miller,” you can watch Dinner With Henry, a rare, 30-minute documentary about Henry Miller, that is exactly what its title implies: footage of Miller having dinner. (via @maudnewton)
“She could be a diva, says this source, ‘but in a way I fucking admire it. The world would be a sorrier place without divas.’” For New York magazine, Boris Kachka on the drama behind Michiko Kakutani‘s departure from The New York Times and what her absence means for the world of books. Consider also: our own Matt Seidel‘s rogue’s gallery of prominent critics.
It’s the weekend, and you know what that means. Time to explore your creative passions. That’s right! Find what you want to do and “dive in a full 10 percent and spend the other 90 torturing yourself because you know damn well that it’s far too late to make a drastic career change, and that you’re stuck on this mind-numbing path for the rest of your life.”
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.
What if a treasure hunt in a book crossed over into the real world? Author Kit Williams buried a prize and left clues to its location in his novel, Masquerade. The search drove England crazy. Our own Hannah Gersen maps the imaginary in her essay about how authors organize their manuscripts.
Fans of the French Oulipo movement will know about A Void, the Georges Perec novel written entirely without the use of the letter “e.” What very few readers of any kind know, however, is that in 1939, thirty years before Perec’s novel was published, Ernest Vincent Wright wrote a book in English, Gadsby, that hewed to these same constraints. At The Atlantic, Nikhil Sonnad investigates how this experiment plays out in the book.