If I had been near enough to a computer and had enough time to blog over the last month, I probably would have talked about Nicholson Baker’s new book, Checkpoint. I haven’t read it, so I can only comment on the reactions that I have seen to the book. Most have been negative. The book is about two friends who are sitting in a hotel room having a conversation. One character wants to assassinate President George W. Bush, the other is trying to talk him out of it. The subject matter alone seems to come from a desire to create controversy, and though Baker and his publisher have gone out of their way to condemn violence, Baker has said that he was motivated by his own personal anger to write the book. If you ask me, controversial subject matter + short book (115 pages in this case) + rush to press = literary publicity stunt, and many, including the New York Times agree.Readers of fiction looking for a weekly dose and writers of fiction looking for an audience should check out Weekly Reader, a little website that delivers a story to your inbox every week.Poaching two great links from Arts & Letters Daily: Jonathan Yardley loves Hunter S. Thompson’s new collection of pieces from ESPN.com’s page 2, Hey Rube; and Tibor Fischer discusses the current slate of Booker hopefuls.
“Here is the trouble with looking for ourselves in the writers whose works we admire, at least if we are proposing to be their biographers. For if we are in search of ourselves, or in this case our own troubled teenaged selves roaming New York, then we are apt to downplay those parts of the life that don’t correspond with that need for recognition.” Anne Boyd Rioux writes about biography and the distance, good or bad, between subject and biographer for the Los Angeles Review of Books.
We recently linked to a new interview with Ian McEwan, whose latest novel The Children Act comes out next week. The LA Times has a full review of the new book, and the piece pairs well with Charles-Adam Foster-Simard‘s review of McEwan’s Sweet Tooth. And of course there’s Atonement, which comes up in a variety of Millions articles, from Michael David Lukas‘s essay on the polyphonic novel to Seth Sawyer‘s recent piece on food and reading.
Out this week: The Boat Rocker by Ha Jin; Martutene by Ramón Saizarbitoria; Black Elk by Joe Jackson; Float by Anne Carson; A Lowcountry Heart by Pat Conroy; and The Terranauts by T.C. Boyle. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview.
“I have a theory: the thing that makes you a unique writer hasn’t got so much to do with your influences as it does with how you became a writer in the first place. I think your preferences—your obsessions—come just as much from the first sorts of things you consumed and were passionate about. Whether that’s pop music, comics, “lowbrow” fiction, soap operas, or anything else, the thing that matters most is what started you writing stories.” Amber Sparks writes about “lowbrow” influences and the many paths to becoming a storyteller in an essay for Electric Literature.