Out this week: The Wall by H.G. Adler; How to Be Both by Ali Smith; Screenplay by MacDonald Harris; Woman with a Gun by Phillip Margolin; Essays after Eighty by Donald Hall; Selected Letters by Norman Mailer; and Skylight by the late Nobel laureate José Saramago. For more on these and other recent titles, check out our Great Second-half 2014 Book Preview.
Are people losing interest in fiction that “offers more questions than answers?” In her book Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel, Jane Smiley suggested that modern readers have little taste for uncertainty. At The Rumpus, Rob Roberge asks how much this contributes to popular disinterest in literature.
Piggybacking off a brief aside in Ian Frazier’s new review of James Agee’s Cotton Tenants, Claire Kelley explores an odd and intriguing question: was Agee related to Walt Whitman? (Related: Mallory Ortberg on the probability that Whitman did the dirty with Oscar Wilde.)
Over at The Margins, Franny Choi, Ali Eteraz, and others respond to Calvin Trillin’s New Yorker poem, “Have They Run Out of Provinces Yet?” As they put it, “Trillin is part of the ‘we’ in his poem but it’s clear that Chinese and Chinese American people are not. Instead, invoking Yellow Peril fears, Trillin speaks of the threat food from ‘more provinces’ while ignoring that those provinces are home to people, too.”
Recommended Reading: a piece from the New York Review of Books blog on modern attention spans and what they mean for literature. Hint: it’s not looking too promising. Tim Parks closes with a prediction that “the novel of elegant, highly distinct prose, of conceptual delicacy and syntactical complexity, will tend to divide itself up into shorter and shorter sections, offering more frequent pauses where we can take time out. The larger popular novel, or the novel of extensive narrative architecture, will be ever more laden with repetitive formulas, and coercive, declamatory rhetoric to make it easier and easier, after breaks, to pick up, not a thread, but a sturdy cable.”
Readers of Millions Originals ebook Epic Fail are deeply familiar with Tommy Wiseau’s heroically bad 2003 film, The Room. So, too, are people masochistic enough to sit through the actual movie. Together, they might be wondering how such a production came to be – and how it came to fail so horribly. Well, finally a new book co-authored by Greg Sestaro and Tom Bissell seeks to answer that question. You can check out an excerpt over here.