We are all by now familiar with J.K. Rowling‘s elaborate, hand-drawn outlines for the Harry Potter series, but what if all plots could be simplified further? Down to, let’s say, graphs? And not even an infinite number of graphs, but just six? The Paris Review considers the work of Matthew Jockers, a literature professor who studies “the relationship between sentiment and plot shape in fiction.”
Another big week for books is headlined by Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue (the book’s opening lines) and Junot Díaz’s This Is How You Lose Her. Also out are Susan Straight’s Between Heaven and Here, touted debuts The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu and The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, How Music Works by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, and Bob Woodward’s latest Beltway tick-tock The Price of Politics.
“Her characters sleepwalk to their certain fates through artificial pocket universes, each one seemingly constructed to satisfy the curiosity of an inhumane, omniscient narrator. Few writers have been so consistently and brilliantly unkind.” On Muriel Spark’s The Bachelors.
Recommended reading: The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the new modesty of literary criticism and the complicated relationship between texts, critics, and politics. For more on the balance between art and politics, look no further than Jonathan Clarke‘s Millions essay, “Alive with Disagreement and Dissent.”