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.”
Paula Fox, celebrated novelist and winner of the 1983 National Book Award (among other honors), died this week. Contributing to our Year in Reading series two years ago, Parul Sehgal said she couldn’t stop rereading Desperate Characters, perhaps Fox’s most popular book for adults. “It’s really a wallop of a book,” Sehgal wrote. “A barbed portrait of a marriage, not to mention a brilliant take on gentrification, white fears of black and brown people, the hostile insularity of the nuclear family, and how power reproduces and how power conceals itself.” (Bonus: Dominic Smith wants to send a scene from that novel into space.)
“Most of the time I think of the self as a snare, and I don’t like being trapped in it. I try to reach out beyond my pittance of experience and connect to the world, but it turns out one way to do that is to be honest and accurate about my own life.” Leslie Jamison interviews Charles D’Ambrosio for The New Yorker. Pair with our own Hannah Gersen‘s review of D’Ambrosio’s Loitering.
Year in Reading alum Laura van den Berg has a new book out this week, as does Amy Tan. Also out: Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks; Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield; and a memoir by YiR alum Rob Delaney. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great Second-Half 2013 Book Preview.
Sean Manning of the Talking Covers blog spoke with a bunch of authors, editors and artists to take a long, close look at the work of Lorraine Louie, the designer “who came up with the uniform, De Stijl layout” of the inimitable Vintage Contemporaries. And while on the topic of book covers, check out Tammy Fortin’s “New Covers for Old Classics” series she put together for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.