Recommended reading: Rachel Kushner writes about the Costa Concordia disaster, cruise ships in general, and her own short-lived “aspiration to spend time at sea as requisite literary training” for The London Review of Books.
The gorgeous paperback edition of our own Garth Risk Hallberg’s A Field Guide to the North American Family is now out. Also new and noteworthy are Francisco Goldman’s New Yorker excerpted story of the death of his young wife Say Her Name, Meg Wolitzer’s The Uncoupling, Ann Packer’s Swim Back to Me, Blake Butler’s There is No Year, and Phillip Connors’s intriguing debut, Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout. Elsewhere, we’ve got Tina Fey’s raved about memoir Bossypants and a new and long in the works biography of Malcolm X, whose author, Manning Marable died just last week on the eve of the book’s publication. Finally, now out in paperback is the fiction blockbuster The Help.
“[A]ny discussion of craft does not take place in a vacuum – that race is part of one’s lived experience and how we see ourselves and are seen does impact how and what we write.” Poet Neil Aiken puts together an absolutely indispensable list of texts – books, essays, lectures and beyond – on the craft of writing by writers of color. See also: our own Edan Lepucki‘s impromptu syllabus of craft readings.
Seeing as yesterday was Donald Barthelme’s birthday, it’s as good a time as any to remember the short fiction icon. At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova reads Barthelme’s essay “Not-Knowing,” which you can find in the author’s collection of essays and interviews. Sample quote: “Art is not difficult because it wishes to be difficult, but because it wishes to be art.”
The Morning News Tournament of Books is around the corner (less than two weeks away, in fact) and readers can now download the bracket (pdf), print it out, and start scribbling in their picks. Along with the bracket, Andrew Seal offers up an array of intriguing statistics from past tournaments. So, now that you can make an educated guess, Who do you think is going to win this year?
Year in Reading alumnus Alexander Chee writes about the impulse to write fiction, his first novel, and unpublished manuscripts in an essay for the Center For Fiction’s Why Fiction Matters series. “The first story I ever invented for public consumption was in a book report back in grade school. I had made a vow to read every book in my grade school library, and at some point, as I made my way through them, I remember very clearly understanding that there was simply no way my teacher would know about every book ever published—this was before the Internet—and so I decided I would make one up and see if she noticed.” Pair with this Millions piece, featuring six writers looking back on their first novels.