In the world of selling books, it’s not all about the sentences. At Ploughshares, agent Eric Nelson argues: A fresh plot matters and unusual characters do, too. “The most interesting books have characters who do the opposite of what we’d do… Imagine Hamlet, if Hamlet took decisive action. Horror movies wouldn’t exist at all without the idiot who always suggests they split up.”
In The New York Times, Anne Lamott (of Bird by Bird fame) reveals the one book she’d recommend to President Obama. It might not surprise many readers of her memoir that her choice — Anti-California: Report from our First Parafascist State — is a nonfiction book by her father.
“Everywhere in the language of this collection is the deliberate and sustained glorification of the human. Long after his 11 months in what he calls the Lager (Auschwitz III), as a survivor, Primo Levi understands evil as not only banal but unworthy of our insight – even of our intelligence, for it reveals nothing interesting or compelling about itself.” Toni Morrison on The Complete Works of Primo Levi in The Guardian.
Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient won the Golden Man Booker Prize, the one-off award celebrating the best work of fiction from the last five decades of the prize. About the prize, Ondaatje said “I wish in fact that those of us on this Man Booker list had been invited to propose and speak about what we felt were the overlooked classics—in order to enlarge what ought to be read, as opposed to relying on the usual suspects.” Read the rest of his illuminating and gracious speech over at Literary Hub.
“Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.” It’s too bad more people haven’t had a chance to take a look at Carl Sagan’s 8-rule “Baloney Detection Kit.“