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.”
A group of Austrian artists aims to “reconfigure and recontextualize” a memorial to Austrian poet Josef Weinheber, who engaged in Nazi activities and wrote numerous pro-Hitler propaganda pieces. Michael Kaminer caught up with Eduard Freudmann, the leader of the Vienna-based push for recontextualization, who hopes to spark a debate “about how to proceed with the … artistic reconfiguration of a Nazi monument.”
Tony Tulathimutte offers advice on lowering word count: Merge scenes, murder characters, quit writing altogether: “merge scenes, murder characters, ‘start as close to the end as possible’ (Kurt Vonnegut), quit writing altogether.” Pair with this Millions piece on writing slowly and by hand.
The Millions Walking Tour of NYC Indie Bookstores is only a week away. Get all the details and RSVP.Little Dorrit is must-see-TV in the Packer household.For those considering undertaking Infinite Jest, we recommend Slate’s Audio Book Club discussion.Meanwhile, in the first installment of New York Magazine’s new “Reading Room” feature, participants get, er… wet.”‘I never wanted to write this book,'” [Alec Baldwin] tells us… ‘It was also a book I never wanted to read, but here we are, Alec and I, making the best of a bad situation.'”The influence of the late J.G. Ballard, who died this week, reached from Jonathan Lethem to Thom Yorke.What’s Bret Easton Ellis up to? Not much, apparently.An inspired blog feature collects one-star Amazon reviews of the classics (via HTMLGIANT).In praise of Peter Handke and A.J. Liebling.Senator Arlen Specter realizes that there’s no way to endear yourself to Republican primary voters like writing for The New York Review of Books.William H. Gass goes for baroque. (via The Complete Review)Some small presses are trying out a subscription model.The earliest known dust jacket for a book has been found. (via LitKicks)The Orange Prize shortlist has been announced.Ben Yogoda writes a defense of common English.Trade paperbacks thrive in tough times. (Our suggestion: make them even smaller.)Earth Day was this past week, and now we know: used books are “greener” than new.