In the late fifties, an old flame of Samuel Beckett, Ethna MacCarthy, fell ill and died of throat cancer in Dublin. Around this time, female voices began to enter Beckett’s work, which up until that point had featured almost exclusively male characters. Was there a connection? In a review of a new edition of Beckett’s letters, Fintan O’Toole suggests that there was. You could also read Elizabeth Winkler on the author’s bilingual oeuvre.
At Slate, our own Mark O’Connell delves into the history of the self-interview, which you can find many examples of over at The Nervous Breakdown. Mark cites examples of self-interviews by prominent writers, including Tennessee Williams, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Year in Reading alum John Banville.
France’s top literary award, the Prix Goncourt, has been awarded to the French-Moroccan journalist and novelist Leïla Slimani, The New York Times reports. Slimani’s book, Chanson Douce, is loosely based on a tragic case in New York City in which two children were murdered by their caretaker. Earlier this year we reviewed another book that was a finalist for the prize, The Heart.
Interested in writing a bestseller? You may want to check out Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers‘ newest book, The Bestseller Code. Or maybe not: “At times, it seems like Archer and Jockers are trying to retrofit a closed system. They found that best-sellers have lots of contractions—the better, they explain, to mimic contemporary speech—and exclamation points only rarely … They conclude that best-sellers consist of ‘shorter, cleaner sentences, without unneeded words,’ and that best-selling characters ‘make things happen.’ Active verbs predict best-sellers better than passive verbs. ‘Hesitation doesn’t keep pages turning,’ Archer and Jockers decide. After all that work, in other words, the algorithm ends up confirming the uncontested tenets of craft and style.”
Espresso Book Machines are coming to Barnes and Nobles stores in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, allowing customers to “make a physical print book of a hard-to-find book, a public domain title or self publish a book.” Espresso Book Machines also win our prize for “Most Misleading Machine Name.”