Terrible sex writing spans the globe according to this year’s Bad Sex Award shortlist. It includes: My Education by Susan Choi, The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood, House of Earth by Woody Guthrie, Motherland by William Nicholson, The Victoria System by Eric Reinhardt, The World Was All Before Them by Matthew Reynolds, The City of Devi by Manil Suri, and Secrecy by Rupert Thomson. The winner will be announced on December 3.
Mark Twain first rose to fame as the author of an essay about a frog-jumping contest in California. Originally titled “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog,” the essay went viral in America’s biggest newspapers, eventually inspiring the New York Tribune to write of Twain that “no reputation was ever so rapidly won.” Yet the humor which made the essay so popular is often lost on modern audiences, in no small part because, as Ben Turnoff writes in Lapham’s Quarterly, frontier humor isn’t funny if there’s no Wild West.
In true Seinfeldian fashion, Arthur Martine, the Victorian writer behind Martine’s Handbook of Etiquette, drew up a detailed taxonomy of the various species of bore. These include the Loud Talker, who “silences a whole party by his sole power of lungs;” the Malaprop, who masters the art of inappropriate conversation; and the Life-Sharer, who may be familiar to the Facebook addicts of today.
I’ve loved old sci-fi B-movies forever, and a staggering number of my childhood memories involve Ray Harryhausen. For this reason, I’m really geeking out over The New Yorker’s entire science fiction issue, but in particular this piece by Colson Whitehead deserves your time.
Ever thought that writing a novel was like a video game you just couldn’t win? In the new video game The Novelist, players count pages not bodies as they try to help the protagonist balance writing with his family life. “There’s no winning or losing,” designer Kent Hudson said. “[M]y hope is that as you’re presented with the same fundamental question … over the course of the game, that you start to learn about your own values.”
Last week, I directed you to a piece in The Atlantic by John Yorke on the substance of stories. His argument: that all stories have one thing in common–their plot. Now, Lincoln Michel at Electric Literature suggests that rather it is all story structure models that have one thing in common–and that thing is bullshit.
“Among their other contributions to American life are words that some of the Beats marshaled on behalf of wild places. Kerouac, inspired by Snyder’s rapture about a summer spent in the clouds, followed him as a lookout to an area that eventually became North Cascades National Park in Washington State.” Over at The New York Times, Timothy Egan takes a look at poetry’s long, linked history with our national parks.