The international popularity and utility of English doesn’t show any signs of slowing, but what will the language look like after a few generations of increasing usage? The Economist gives a brief answer, but it doesn’t address the ways English is or will be used by different people to tell their stories. Damian Fowler addresses this when he asks, “[W]hat does it mean to have an American point of view,” or to call a book American in tone, as opposed to British or just English-language? In a blog post for The Paris Review, Fowler offers an answer: American novels are characterized by “a spare, sure sense of narrative, reflected in a colloquial voice, free of affectation.”
Parentheses aren’t just the mark of a lazy or verbose writer. They can also bracket personal pain in a narrative. At The New York Review of Books, Christopher Benfey explores the power of the parenthetical detail, such as Lolita‘s “My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three.” Pair with: Vulture’s “The 5 Best Punctuation Marks in Literature.”
Three decades after his death, the work of Romanian writer Max Blecher remains largely unavailable in English. Ricky D’Ambrose writes for The Nation about Blecher’s work. As he puts it, “Max Blecher is an obsessive saboteur of the breach between two seemingly irreconcilable positions: revulsion and lust.”
Does a writer make the city or does the city make the writer? At Grantland, Michael Weinreb discusses why Elmore Leonard is the ultimate Motor City writer and discovers Leonard’s Detroit. “Without his books, the city would still have suffered the same hellish decline. But because of him, that suffering was rendered into an art form all its own.” Pair with: Our own Bill Morris writing against Detroit’s ruin porn reputation.
“6 Reasons We’re In Another ‘Book-Burning’ Period In History” is not about the destruction of books based on content or community objections; it’s about the destruction of books because libraries (and sometimes bookstores) don’t know what to do with them. We also had a little something to say about the topic.
Big congratulations to Millions staffer Emily St. John Mandel, whose novel The Singer’s Gun was shortlisted for the Indie Booksellers Choice Award!