Penelope Fitzgerald has been getting a lot of attention lately, largely due to Hermione Lee‘s newest biography. In an article for the Paris Review, Bridget Read considers the impact a better understanding of Fitzgerald’s life could have on her modern reputation, and argues that “it is not extraordinary that she became a prize-winning novelist, though you may have heard otherwise. … It is vital to emphasize that Fitzgerald’s novels were not achieved in spite of her domestic life; they were borne directly out of it. Her work is radical in that it suggests that, in fact, a feminine experience, a liminal experience, might be better equipped than a male one to address the contradictions of human existence taken up by the greatest literature.”
“Lovecraft Country doesn’t just race along, it tears, demanding that you keep turning its pages without interruption. I read the second half of the book while walking in my neighborhood, holding the book with one hand and clutching bags of groceries in the other, and then finishing up in bed with a small LED lamp after my wife had fallen asleep. It’s one of those books.” Cory Doctorow reviews Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country at BoingBoing.
BOMB Magazine sits down with Rebecca Makkai, author of Music for Wartime and The Hundred-Year House. “People love to underrate plot, because it makes them sound like they’re beyond it, like plot is best left to Danielle Steele.“ For more Makkai, check out our interview with her.
Our own Lydia Kiesling writes for The New Yorker about workplace fiction by women. As she puts it, “If the author is a woman, workplace fiction is also domestic fiction, easily disguised as ‘chick lit,’ ‘girlfriend literature,’ or even ‘erotica.’ Regardless of the packaging, these books provide mapping, contextualizing, and rich illustration of women’s working lives.” For more of her writing, check out her essay on the San Francisco housing market for The Millions.
The Great Gatsby debuted in 1925 to poor sales and mediocre reviews. So how did it become one of the most famous novels in America? At Slate, Cristina Hartmann explains how Fitzgerald’s opus, which netted the author royalties worth a grand total of $13 in his lifetime, went on to become a classic. Related: our own Bill Morris on a book about the novel by Sarah Churchwell. (h/t The Paris Review Daily)
Last week, Erin Fortenberry reviewed Walter Kirn’s Blood Will Out for The Millions, writing that the events in the book were partly centered on Kirn himself. Now, in the Times, Janet Maslin reads the book, which struck her as “primarily a tale of seduction.”