A lot of writers have alter-egos, but few are as interesting as Benjamin Black, the crime-writing persona of Irish novelist and Year in Reading alum John Banville. The author’s new novel adds an entry to the saga of a crime-fiction icon: Raymond Chandler’s Angeleno detective, Philip Marlowe.
After fourteen years, Bookslut is closing its doors. In a post that went up on March 9th, founder Jessa Crispin announced that the blog she started when she was twenty-three, which made a name for itself as one of the first major book sites on the web, is ceasing publication as of tomorrow, May 6th. She talks with Boris Kachka at Vulture about why it’s closing, what she’s learned about the publishing world, and what it was like when she started: “People who started blogging even a year after us didn’t have the same response because the audience got divided.”
Longtime writers know how hard it can be to tell when a piece is finished. Tolstoy famously tried to revise War and Peace right up to the book’s publication. At the Ploughshares blog, Amy Jo Burns offers tips for evaluating a piece before deciding to give it to someone else.
Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life might well be the only book in history to draw comparisons between creative writers and stunt pilots. At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova calls attention to a description of Dave Rahm, the real-life pilot who inspired Dillard’s analogy.
Anna Sun profiles the work of Mo Yan, the latest winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. While Sun acknowledges Yan’s popularity and prolific output, she also notes that what the Nobel committee referred to as “hallucinatory prose” is more often than not “repetitive, predictable, coarse, and mostly devoid of aesthetic value.” Indeed, Sun writes, “the English translations of Mo Yan’s novels … are in fact superior to the original.” [Ed. Note: It appears the Kenyon Review link was briefly not working; this Google cache may work better — h/t Dan Farrely]
One of the best parts of last month’s Cullman Center discussion between John Jeremiah Sullivan and Wells Tower was watching JJS carry on the conversation while sipping from a highball glass of whiskey. The essayist’s Southern roots and Irish ancestry of course make him no stranger to potent potables, which is why Danny Nowell’s “John Jeremiah Sullivan” cocktail is so appropriate.