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.”
In Open Letters, Sam Sacks writes "Quietude is godliness in Lark & Termite" and traces Faulkner's influence on the new book.n+1 on the 10th anniversary of Britney Spears' "Baby One More Time": "After her came the deluge: the end of the record industry as we know it, yes, but also the end of America as it used to conceive of itself."Soft Skull's Richard Nash on how to publish in a recession at Conversational Reading.William Safire on "the deluge of books occasioned by the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth." Millions reader Scott says, "I wish the Book Review would do a LOT more of this kind of stuff."The Internet is amazing I: J! Archive, "The fan-created archive of Jeopardy! games and players - 160,032 clues and counting!"The Internet is amazing II: The NY Times has a crossword puzzle blog.Maud Newton in Granta: "Exactly how long the prostitute, unbeknownst to my father, stayed at our house and slept in my bed is hard to gauge.""Sometimes, instead of eating alone, I pretend I'm having lunch with American literary legends. Today's pretend guest was Cormac McCarthy."Is MacKinlay Kantor's Andersonville "the best Civil War novel ever?" (via)At Jacket Copy, Carolyn discovers Faulkner and Delillo in the Sports Illustrated archive.Sara Paretsky: "My editor tells me this is the last time the company will let her send me a marked manuscript."Jenny Davidson on her special pencils.Dan Radosh exposes yet another tired journalistic cliche.The novel of manners, with zombies:: Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesIn praise of the long sentence. (Hear, hear!)
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If last year's The Marriage Plot was too brief a taste of semiotics for you, here's an interesting essay on Jacques Derrida, "the Samson to tear down the temple of structuralism," and his seminal 1966 American presentation on "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences."
Ever want to watch someone write a novel? Nows your chance. Sorta. Silvia Hartmann, UK author of thriller novels, is inviting readers to observe as she types up her next novel in a Google doc.
Both Ed and the Washington Post interview Tobias Wolff on the occasion of the release of his new collection, Our Story Begins.Bookride chronicles some of the most unlikely and amazing discoveries in the history of book collecting. In part one, he discusses many runners-up - including "An incredible collection of modern first editions, mostly fine in jackets turned up in the 1980s in a shed in the Australian desert causing dealers to fly in from New York, Berkeley and Santa Barbara." Part two covers the greatest find. It begins "In 1907, during his second expedition to Chinese Central Asia, Sir Aurel Stein, a Hungarian-born British archaeologist, encountered a monk who showed him a hoard of manuscripts preserved in a cave near Dunhuang."In BOMB, Zachary Lazar and Christopher Sorrentino discuss Lazar's book Sway. Lazar appeared in our Year in Reading.You may have to wait ten years for the rest of it, but Junot Diaz gives readers a sneak peak at his next novel at Omnivoracious.Baseball predictions, highly personalized.J.K. Rowling, now retired from writing about a boy wizard, has embarked on the next step of her career, protecting her legacy. First up is a lawsuit against a companion book written by a superfan librarian. But, as the Times seems to indicate with its account of the trial, that way madness lies: "The librarian, Steven Jan Vander Ark, had the mild-mannered demeanor of Ron Weasley, and the intelligence, charm - and haircut - of Harry Potter. Even his name sounds like that of a character in one of the books, if preceded by "Lord" or "Master." Although, at 50, he is older than Ms. Rowling, 42, he looked like a schoolboy, with an unlined face and caramel-colored hair parted down the middle."
“America has always been able to countenance beggars, short-con men, and nine-to-fivers who just can’t get ahead, but we’ve never known what to do with the type of person who could have been really big but chose not to make the concessions required.” The Believer takes a look at the paradox of Nelson Algren.