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.”
A basketball player gets kicked in the testicles and hundreds of news outets have to figure out how the heck to write about it: "Different outlets have different comfort levels when writing about the crotch. The New York Times, for example, threw idiomatic English out the door on first reference: 'Exhibit A was that [Draymond] Green picked up a flagrant-1 foul — while hacked in the act of shooting — with 5 minutes 57 seconds left in the half by flailing a leg between those of Steven Adams, who wound up doubled over.'"
Junot Diaz, author of Pulitzer-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, started his auspicious career in the most unlikely of imaginary places: crafting stories for his friends in the tabletop roleplay game Dungeons & Dragons.
"In his column, Manjoo goes on to call out virtual reality for being 'a lonely, anti-social affair'—but, hey, isn’t that what reading a novel used to be? I mean, before we figured out how to make books ping and arouse competitive instincts by flagging favorite passages of readers who got there before we did. (I don’t mean to harp on Farhad Manjoo or to denigrate his excellent work; his reticence is shared by others in both legacy and new media cautioning against VR.)" It looks like VR is in desperate need of good storytellers.
A new issue of The Quarterly Conversation has arrived, featuring an essay on Wizard of the Crow by QC creator Scott and a review of William T. Vollmann's Poor People from Dave Munger. Lots of other good reviews in there too.Also via Scott, Political Theory Daily Review, a dense and daily collection of linksIn a Newsweek sidebar accompanying an excerpt of his book The American Religion, Harold Bloom names his "five most important books." The most recent one to appear on the list? A tie, more or less, between Don Quixote and the complete works of Shakespeare. Bloom was also asked to admit to an important book he hadn't read. His answer: "I cannot think of a major work I have not ingested." That's a lot of pages to store in one's belly. (via Stephen)Good week for Mark Sarvas, first he announces that he's sold his novel and now he's off on his honeymoon. Filling in at TEV is Joshua Ferris, author of the much praised Then We Came to the End.And finally, a Baltimore Sun review had me intrigued by a new squirm-inducing non-fiction book by a former crime scene investigator for the Baltimore County police. Dana Kollmann's book Never Suck a Dead Man's Hand: Curious Adventures of a CSI gives a real-life look at a profession recently glamorized by TV show "CSI" and its many offshoots. Krall, however, describes a job both more boring and more odious than the one described on TV, but she does so with "dark humor," which I'd imagine the job requires. The book's title, for example, "comes from a story that involves a dead man, his hand and her attempts to get fingerprints on a freezing cold day." Yikes.
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In an interview with America Magazine, Pope Francis admits that the authors he most admires are Fyodor Dostoevsky, Johann Hölderlin, The Betrothed author Alessandro Manzoni, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. He also goes on to share an interesting anecdote about his compatriot Jorge Luis Borges: “In the end I decided to send Borges two stories written by [the secondary school] boys [I was teaching]. I knew his secretary, who had been my piano teacher. And Borges liked those stories very much. And then he set out to write the introduction to a collection of these writings.”
Get Your War On creator and How to Sharpen Pencils author David Rees was recently interviewed about his new show on the National Geographic channel. The premise behind the new venture is simple: “anything in the world that seems like there’s nothing to learn about, that’s what we want to learn about.”
“In Proust’s case, I think he helps us to see the world as it really is, not only its extraordinary beauty and diversity, but his observations make us aware of how we perceive and how we interact with others, showing us how often we are mistaken in our own assumptions and how easy it is to have a biased view of another person.” William C. Carter makes an argument as to why we should still read Proust. Our own Hannah Gersen has started a Proust Book Club.