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.
What should you do if, horror of horrors, you find yourself appearing as a character in someone else’s book? Michelle Huneven shares her experience being fictionalized in an essay for The Paris Review. Her advice? “Don’t read too much into it. Cultivate lightness.” Pair with our profile of Huneven, “Not Lost, Just Rearranged.”
Last Friday marked the feast day of Francis de Sales, better known as the patron saint of writers and journalists. The saint, who lived in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, got his title thanks to his propensity for using flyers and pamphlets to convert people to Catholicism. At The Paris Review Daily, Dan Piepenbring reads the saint’s most famous work, Introduction to the Devout Life.
In the late fifties, an old flame of Samuel Beckett, Ethna MacCarthy, fell ill and died of throat cancer in Dublin. Around this time, female voices began to enter Beckett’s work, which up until that point had featured almost exclusively male characters. Was there a connection? In a review of a new edition of Beckett’s letters, Fintan O’Toole suggests that there was. You could also read Elizabeth Winkler on the author’s bilingual oeuvre.
Recent Year in Reading alum Rebecca Makkai writes about the difference between publishing your first book and your second book for Ploughshares. Let’s just say it’s the difference between champagne and “all the whiskey.” Pair with Zhanna Slor‘s Millions interview with Makkai in which they discuss that second book, The Hundred-Year House.
The Kindle edition of one of our Most Anticipated Books is on sale at $1.99. Our Man in Iraq, a novel by Robert Perišic, follows two Croatian cousins who manage to get caught up in the frenzy of the Iraq War. You can find out more in John Feffer’s interview with Perišic. (h/t Buzz Poole)
David Foster Wallace’s former student, Adam Plunkett, recounts studying with the polite, Midwestern, sometimes embarrassing professor whom he knew as Dave during the spring of his junior year at Pomona College, where Wallace worked until his death that September.