“In creative writing, I teach that characters arise out of our need for them. By now, the person I created in New York was the only one I wanted to be. …Eight years after reaching the end of myself, I was on borrowed time. Whether it was in a plane or a coffin, I knew I had to get out of Jamaica.” Marlon James, author of The Book of Night Women, which once gave me so much trouble, and whose novel A Brief History of Seven Killings the Book Report covered here, writes for the New York Times Magazine about leaving Jamaica to find himself in Minnesota.
Turns out Americans aren’t the only ones who adore snark. The novelist and critic Adam Mars-Jones has won the first Hatchet Job prize from the British website Omnivore for his blistering takedown of Michael Cunningham’s latest novel, By Nightfall. Mars-Jones beat out Geoff Dyer’s slam of Booker Prize winner Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending. “It isn’t terrible,” Dyer wrote, “it’s just so…average.”
Richard Branson has built a global business empire (Virgin Group) around the philosophy “have fun and the money will come.” Branson’s new book, Screw Business as Usual, says there’s a way to make money and also do good. And speaking of having fun, watch Branson and Steven Colbert get into a fire extinguisher/water fight.
In a TED Talk, Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel show us how Google Labs’ Ngram Viewer works. You can learn “surprising things” from 500 billion words, a string of characters which put together “would stretch from here to the Moon and back ten times over.”
This week in book-related infographics, round 2: Lapham’s Quarterly takes a look at the day jobs of famous authors, among them T.S. Eliot, who was responsible for processing reports on German debt, and Charlotte Bronte, who had laundry fees deducted from her pay. Pair with our own Emily St. John Mandel‘s essay on “Working the Double Shift” and “all the strangely varied occupations that a person accumulates when the primary objective is not to establish a career, per se, but just to pay the rent while they’re working on a novel.”
On the NY Daily News’ Page Views blog, Alexander Nazaryan writes about the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show’s most neglected — yet also most literary — member breed: the dachshund. “No dog,” Nazaryan writes, “has been more widely loved by writers and artists than the dachshund.” Comedian Streeter Seidell agrees that the dachshund was slighted, and calls for a “fan favorite” award next year.