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.”
“Most writers … don’t ask questions of a journalist,” writes How to Read a Novelist author John Freeman. But what of those that do? Over the course of a fifteen year career, Freeman has found that “what the novelists asked of me told me [a great deal] about them,” and that a big problem with the standard format for author interviews, after all, is that “the conventions of the interview deprive us of one thing a novelist does quite a bit, which is ask questions.” (Bonus: Freeman will be in conversation with Jennifer Egan Thursday night at McNally Jackson.)
Legally sampling songs on a hit record is astoundingly expensive. As Kembrew McLeod and Peter DiCola note in Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Licensing, the Beastie Boys would have lost $19.8 million dollars because of Paul’s Boutique. (via BoingBoing)
“’When I finish reading one of her stories, I always feel understood and somehow forgiven for being human,’ Mr. George said. ‘It may simply come down to wisdom. Like the greats, Edith has it.'” Steve Almond gives an overview of Edith Pearlman‘s writing and publication history for The New York Times Book Review in the wake of the release of her latest collection, Honeydew, which Josh Cook recently reviewed for The Millions.
Recommended reading: elderly sisters contend with the youngest dying, in a quietly wry new story by Allegra Goodman at the New Yorker. “She pretended to sleep, and then she really did drop off. When she woke, her sisters were hovering over her. Some of us have overstayed our welcome, Jeanne thought. And then, with sudden shock, No: I’m the one. That would be me.”
The Economist’s nifty, new(?) culture mag More Intelligent Life is putting together guides to the best critics, including those who cover books; film; dance, art, and classical music, and rock music. Scott has performed a similar exercise for book reviewers, as well.Polite magazine: “Where Are They Now? A visit with Encyclopedia Brown“The estimable New York Sun books section follows our lead in adding a review archive.Nextbook asks: Where have all Bernard Malamud’s readers gone?Vroman’s, a legendary Southern California independent bookstore and the employer of Millions contributor Patrick, has been named Bookseller of the Year by PW.Richard Russo:”My fictional Eliot [Spitzer] would be complex, would contain paradoxes. He would not be a hypocrite. My Eliot would believe with his whole heart in his crusades against the corrupt and the powerful and the privileged, even as he worked studiously to undermine his legacy. Fiction can accommodate such paradoxes, provided they’re explained.”An open letter to Steve Jobs pleading for Apple to create an iPod optimized for “a best-of-breed reading experience.” (via)One of our most anticipated books, Jonathan Littell’s novel Les Bienveillantes won’t be out in English for a while yet, but a new translation into German offers an opportunity for another review to trickle out.There are 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, but forget all that and “Read this column before you die.”