Recommended Reading: a piece from the New York Review of Books blog on modern attention spans and what they mean for literature. Hint: it’s not looking too promising. Tim Parks closes with a prediction that “the novel of elegant, highly distinct prose, of conceptual delicacy and syntactical complexity, will tend to divide itself up into shorter and shorter sections, offering more frequent pauses where we can take time out. The larger popular novel, or the novel of extensive narrative architecture, will be ever more laden with repetitive formulas, and coercive, declamatory rhetoric to make it easier and easier, after breaks, to pick up, not a thread, but a sturdy cable.”
With news of this year’s winner fresh off the press, it’s easy to see how the Literary Review’s “Bad Sex Awards” are an annual delight to many readers (as well as an annual horror to several authors). But are they also counter-productive? As one former “winner” of the award asks, is the Bad Sex Award “anything more than a sort of moral outrage dressed up as a quest for high standards in writing?”
Over at Bloom today, a sneak look at an excerpt from Viet Thanh Nguyen‘s The Sympathizer, featured this week on the cover of the NY Times Sunday Book Review and out April 7. Writes Philip Caputo, Nguyen “brings a distinct perspective” to the Vietnam War that “reaches beyond its historical context to illuminate more universal themes.”
“If only we could talk! Like the evening before last, I had actually just stayed the night at the house where I’d been drinking, purely and simply because they didn’t want me to drive back drunk. But I couldn’t tell you that, because telling you would have suggested that you minded; and that’s the kind of minding we never talk of. We only either kid each other about it, or get angry.” The love letters of Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy (one of the first openly gay relationships in Hollywood) are delicate and beautiful.
“No novel gets uniformly enthusiastic reviews, but the polarized responses to The Goldfinch lead to the long-debated questions: What makes a work literature, and who gets to decide?” Vanity Fair has big questions and lots of opinions about Donna Tartt‘s latest novel, which we’ve covered pretty extensively ourselves.