The New York Times recently asked Jennifer Szalai and Mohsin Hamid why there isn’t a Great American Novel written by a woman? Both writers concluded that there is no such thing as the Great American Novel. “But if the idea of the Great American Novel is blinding us to exquisite fiction written by women, then perhaps its harm is exceeding its usefulness,” Hamid wrote. We think that’s a bit of a cop out. But a few women showed up on our list of the Greatest American Novels.
"I didn’t really understand what reading was for. If I wanted a story, the thing to do was to get my grandmother to read it to me. Then listening to her voice, her story-reading voice which always sounded a little incredulous, marvelling, yet full of faith, bravely insistent, and watching her face, its meaningful and utterly familiar expressions—lifted eyebrows, ominously sinking chin, brisk little nods of agreement when, as sometimes happened, a character said something sensible—then I would feel the story grow into life and exist by itself, so that it hardly seemed to me that she was reading it out of a book at all; it was something she had created herself, out of thin air... But one summer I had the whooping-cough, and afterwards I could not go swimming or jump off the beams in the barn or boss my little brother, because by that time he had the whooping-cough himself. My grandmother was off somewhere, visiting other cousins. So I swung on my swing until I got dizzy, and then for no reason in particular I took the Child’s History out of the bookcase in the front room, and sat down on the floor and started to read." Alice Munro writes about A Child's History of England, the first book she ever read.
“Some psychiatrists say that music has therapeutic powers and can even restore fluidity and mental structure for a moment in some patients – music is the opposite of chaos. It may be that heavy metal, the music his parents blamed in part for this entire catastrophe, is the only thing that gives order to my cousin’s worn-out brain. No one knows, except him.” On trying to seek refuge from schizophrenia in heavy metal.
Earlier today, the Guggenheim Foundation announced this year's Fellows, and the names on their list include a few that Millions readers will recognize. On the fiction side, there's contributor Laila Lalami along with Year in Reading alumni Jess Row and Jesse Ball, while in nonfiction and poetry, there's Amanda Petrusich along with Adam Kirsch, Chris Kraus and Deborah Landau. The winners each receive a sizeable cash grant.
"Time goes all stretchy in the Twittersphere, just as it does in those folk songs in which the hero spends a night with the queen of the faeries and then returns to find that 100 years have passed and all his friends are dead…" Margaret Atwood talks Twitter with Robert McCrum.