Out this week: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (who Angela Qian wrote about for The Millions in September); We Are Water by Wally Lamb; Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins; Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books by Claudia Roth Pierpont; and The Eternal Wonder, a recently discovered novel by Nobel laureate Pearl S. Buck. For more on these and other new books, check out our Great Second-half 2013 Book Preview.
David Roberts spent 12 hours in front of a screen everyday, frequently hit the daily tweet limit, and saw “every sunset as a potential Instagram.” So he decided to quit the internet for a year and lived to tell the tale for Outside. Yet disconnecting isn’t as easy as signing off Twitter. “One striking feature of the digital-self-help literature is that it treats distraction, overload, and frazzlement almost entirely as personal challenges. If you’re stressed out and unable to concentrate, you’re not enlightened enough. Meditate harder.” Pair with: What’s it like to be from the last generation to remember life before the internet and our own Edan Lepucki’s (slightly shorter) social media detox.
Robert Krulwich takes on two very different types of “nothing.” As he illustrates through the invocation of Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, and outer space, “nothing” is a lot more complicated than you might initially believe.
You must obey (and read) your robot overlords! As if winning a literary award wasn’t already hard enough, a story co-authored by computers just made it through at least one round of judging at the Nikkei Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award competition in Japan. But don’t worry, you haven’t lost your job quite yet–the good news is that the programs still have “some problems … such as character descriptions.”
“Would I have carried myself with the same swagger, or faced adversity with such feminine resolve, without Albertine as my guide?…I was drawn to a striking, remote face—rendered violet on black—on a dust jacket proclaiming its author ‘a female Genet.’ It cost 99 cents, the price of a grilled cheese and coffee at the Waverly Diner, just across Sixth Avenue. I had a dollar and a subway token, but after reading the first few lines I was smitten—one hunger trumped another and I bought the book.” Patti Smith introduces Astragal by Albertine Sarrazin, recently rereleased by New Directions.
George Saunders is taking up residence at the Powell’s Blog this week as he embarks on a book tour promoting his latest (released today), The Braindead Megaphone. To my knowledge, it is Saunders’ first foray into blogging, a format we discussed nearly two years ago (scroll down). His concern: “I worry about how much I would have to pay myself to keep my blog supplied with content. My fear is that, knowing I was working for myself, I would start cheating myself, only submitting my worst pieces, then get into a labor dispute with myself and never speak to me again.” Hopefully, his fears aren’t realized.A new issue of Scott Esposito’s terrific Quarterly Conversation has arrived. It features, among several notable contributors, Garth, who “sorts out literary feuds, dissects James Wood’s essay against Don DeLillo’s 832-page opus Underworld, and argues that this book actually evolves the novel forward.”Emdashes has the schedule for this year’s New Yorker Festival. It looks fantastic as usual. I should really go sometime.
Do you need a pot of coffee before you dive into writing every day? You’re just procrastinating and making yourself less creative. Writer Merrill Markoe did the same thing until she discovered that working right after she wakes up leads to the best creative writing. “Words come pouring out easily while my head still feels as if it is full of ground fog, wrapped in flannel and gauze, and surrounded by a hive of humming, velvety sleep bees.”