“In eleven years, I’ve written four books: three novels and one story collection. Only the story collection has ever seen the light of day; the first two novels, including my thesis, were never published and the third novel is making the rounds with agents right now. I’d like to believe I’ve learned a few things about how fiction works over this time, but perhaps it is more accurate to write that I have learned how my fiction does – or in many cases, does not – work.” Michael Nye, who’s written for us before, shares his “Lessons in Failure and Writing a Novel” on the Missouri Review blog.
We take it for granted that our language will grow and change. But one thing we think less often about is that our alphabet is subject to the same forces. Herewith, Carlos Lozada reads Michael Rosen’s new book Alphabetical, which delves into the origins and future prospects of our writing system.
The huge, McSweeney’s-published, John Sayles novel A Moment in the Sun has been getting great reviews. It’s now out. Also new this week is China Mieville’s Embassytown, reviewed here today; Paul Theroux’s exploration of the genre of travel writing, The Tao of Travel; prizewinning Nigerian author Helon Habila’s new novel Oil on Water; and A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman, the complete stories of Margaret Drabble, recently written up by Joyce Carol Oates in the New Yorker. New in paperback are a pair of Millions Hall of Famers, Emma Donoghue’s Room and Justin Cronin’s The Passage.
“[I]n the world of letters, it is hard to imagine a more seismic change than this one.” The New York Times announces that its longtime book critic Michiko Kakutani is stepping down after nearly four decades of reviews.
The Times also offers a roundup of her greatest hits, including writeups of Beloved, Infinite Jest, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Bill Clinton‘s memoir My Life:
The book, which weighs in at more than 950 pages, is sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull — the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history.
This announcement was followed by the great news that repeat Year in Reading alumna Parul Sehgal will join Jennifer Senior and Dwight Garner as a Times book critic, leaving her position as senior editor of the NYT Book Review. Congratulations, Parul!
Not long after James Lasdun released his new book, Give Me Everything You Have, Jessica Freeman-Slade reviewed it for The Millions. Now, in the latest issue of the LRB, Nick Richardson offers his own take. (You could also check out our own Mark O’Connell’s interview with Lasdun.)