I’ve written before about the First Sentence series at Granta. The magazine asks a prominent writer to explain how they came to write an opening line. Recently, they asked Bear Down, Bear North author Melinda Moustakis to talk about the beginning of her story “River So Close”: “She’s a good-for-nothing chummer.” You could also read Jonathan Russell Clark on the art of the opening sentence.
Anya Ulinich, author of Petropolis, talks to World Literature Today: “What else can a person do when she gets home after a ten-hour work day – with a toothache that she can’t afford to fix . . . – but fall on the couch and watch whatever is in front of her face?” . . . Lydia Davis, whose Collected Stories is just out, talks to Sarah Manguso for The Believer: “At the origin of the work there has to be strong feeling, if it’s going to be any good. Of course, that strong feeling can be a delight in language.” . . . The Book Bench unearths a 1978 John Updike interview with a Croation periodical, which finds the Rabbit Angstrom author halfway through his tetralogy. . . . Edwin Frank of NYRB Classics talks to Omnivoracious, and selects his favorite books in the series (via). . . . And James Ellroy submits to interrogation at The Paris Review: “I was always thinking about how I would become a great novelist.”
Fans of the French Oulipo movement will know about A Void, the Georges Perec novel written entirely without the use of the letter “e.” What very few readers of any kind know, however, is that in 1939, thirty years before Perec’s novel was published, Ernest Vincent Wright wrote a book in English, Gadsby, that hewed to these same constraints. At The Atlantic, Nikhil Sonnad investigates how this experiment plays out in the book.
Attention literature-lovers and burrito-consumers: Chipotle has announced the second batch of writers, including Barbara Kingsolver, Amy Tan, and Neil Gaiman, for its Cultivating Thought series, which places short pieces of writing on soda cups and paper bags (we covered the first series here).