How did Herman Melville’s friendship with Nathaniel Hawthorne affect the writing of Moby-Dick? It’s a hard question to answer with any certainty, but Patrick James Dunagan gives it a shot, drawing evidence from Erik Hage’s book on the authors’ relationship. You could also read Hester Blum’s argument that Moby-Dick is the greatest American novel.
Jonathan Raban intersperses biographical information about William Gaddis in order to give the correspondence collected in his recently published Letters greater context. There are ample details about the author’s travels in his young adulthood, his artistic frustrations over the publication of The Recognitions, and, of course, many details about the women in Gaddis’s life. “In letters to his mother,” Raban writes, “Gaddis liked to depict himself as someone repeatedly smitten by beautiful women.” (Bonus: “The Letters of William Gaddis contains five letters addressed to me.”
Why did Richard Brautigan’s friends eventually stop inviting him to parties? Was it because he got drunk? Was it because he brought too many friends? Or was it because, as Michael LaPointe suggests in his review of Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan, he liked to pack a revolver?
The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses is hosting their annual Spelling Bee Fundraiser on October 30th. New Yorker editor Ben Greenman will host the event, which will pit Jonathan Ames, Amor Towles and Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures author Emma Straub against one another (and more) in a battle of lexicographic perspicacity. (Can you state the language of origin, please?) The event will be judged by none other than Jesse Sheidlower, editor of the inimitable Oxford English Dictionary.
“Every year, as Halloween draws near, I get to thinking about what makes books scary,” writes Ben Dooley in his introduction to Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. It’s a book that “’gets’ existential horror,” Dooley claims. Intrigued? Well be sure to check out not only his review of the book, but also our interview with its author.
“It’s rough out there for artists and writers right now, I know. There are days when you just want to throw in the towel, say fuck it, fake your own death, give insurance fraud a go, and live out of a Winnebago somewhere in remote Ontario. That’s a good plan—that’s a really good plan—but remember, you’ve got options.” The Paris Review considers the life of artist Reuben Kadish, who bought a disused dairy farm, made it a viable business in a decade’s time, and changed his medium from painting to sculpture in the process.
For those of us who refuse to trade in the typewriter, however, there’s always our popular piece on how to write a novel.