In “kids these days” news, any book now counts as a “novel.” There are fiction novels and nonfiction novels, recipe novels and poetry novels and picture novels and, less facetiously, a new novel told in letters of recommendation, Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members. And now that you’ve finished my three-sentence nonfiction digital novel, here’s the world’s longest novel, which clocks in at 3 million pages that I confess I have not read.
“[L]overs of more experimental books showed the ability to see things from different perspectives but it was comedy fans who scored the highest for relating to others.” A new study suggests that people who read books are nicer, reports The Independent. In our recent interview with author John Vaillant he wholly agreed. “Empathy is what gives you the access,” he told us. “I see the writer (fiction or nonfiction) as a kind of permeable membrane through which the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of others can pass and manifest.”
Michiko Kakutani‘s generous and oddly moving review of Jay-Z‘s Decoded – in which she seems to find a kindred spirit – almost makes me want to take back all the mean things I’ve said about her. I still don’t trust her judgment, but the review’s worth reading just for the mental image of her in big headphones, nodding along to “Streets Is Watching.” Go ‘head, shorty.
Recommended Reading: Oliver Burkeman on a new group of optimistic thinkers.
As a literary technique, imitation is usually thought of as an amateur move, despite the number of classic works that began as overt acts of mimicry. At the Ploughshares blog, Anca Szilagyi comes up with several prompts for writers who want to imitate thoughtfully.
“Getting too quickly to where you want to go, getting there too smoothly, is antithetical to thinking through complex issues. You want roadblocks, confusion, chaos, and doubt. Unexpected, wonderful things come out of this approach.” Jeff VanderMeer provides a master class for Publisher’s Weekly on novel revision, explaining in five steps how his new book Borne arrived at its final incarnation. And for more shop talk, see VanderMeer’s interview with The Kills author Richard House from our own pages a couple of years back.
“It only took me 10 years to get the verb tenses right!” Our own Garth Risk Hallberg reflects on the process of updating his debut novella, A Field Guide to the North American Family, recently reissued in a new edition by Knopf. See also: our interview with him on the occasion of the release of his blockbuster City on Fire.