It’s an age-old question for writers and thinkers: how do you quiet the noise of your thoughts? In Aeon Magazine, Tim Parks wonders if it’s even possible to silence internal monologues — and, if it is, whether that silence means losing sight of our identities. (Related: our own Mark O’Connell reviewed Parks’s latest book.)
“Me? He wants me to give him advice? But why? I still have no idea what I am doing. Then I realized that I did, at least, have eight more years of a writing practice that had run in tandem with a life of odd jobs, graduate school, starting a business, traveling, etc. I thought about an anecdote my friend Daniel once told me about what happened when Ian McEwan was asked to give advice to a young writer just starting out. He simply said, ‘Be successful.’” Catherine Lacey gives advice to a not-much-younger writer.
The Believer posts a 2003 essay featuring Donald Barthelme's reading list, which came secondhand to Kevin Moffett, a self-professed non-reader: "Barthelme’s only guidance, passed on by Padgett Powell, one of Barthelme’s former students at the University of Houston and my teacher at the time, was to attack the books 'in no particular order, just read them,' which is exactly what I, in my confident illiteracy, resolved to do." (via The Paris Review)
Francine Prose has an idiosyncratic theory that the Hindu god Ganesh is a vital part of her writing process. In a VQR essay, she explains that her portrait of the deity (which she purchased forty years ago at a bazaar in Mumbai) gives her a kind of confidence that goes beyond superstition. As support for this belief, she points out that Ganesh is known in some quarters as “the writer’s god.”
New this week: The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit, The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls, Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth Silver, Bobcat by Rebecca Lee, and a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights by Hanan al-Shaykh, with a foreword by Mary Gaitskill.