Most readers nurse particular fantasies of stepping into their favorite books. Whether they dream of enrolling at Hogwarts, or signing up for MI6 with James Bond, they usually have a stable of settings that function as a means of escape. So imagine how strange and conflicting it was to be Jonathan Gottschall, the English professor who got a chance to enter Fight Club.
Over at the Story Prize blog, Year in Reading alumnus Colum McCann shares a letter of advice to writers starting their career. As he puts it, “A story begins long before its first word. It ends long after its last... [it] reveal[s] a truth that isn't yet there.”
New this week: My Education by Susan Choi, Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw, Loteria by Mario Alberto Zambrano, The Unknowns by Gabriel Roth, and a new edition of a previously hard to come by early collection of stories by John Banville, Long Lankin. Stay tuned for our big second-half preview with many, many more anticipated books, coming in less than a week.
Want a book blurb from Margaret Atwood? Expect a poem instead. Atwood has retired from the blurbing business and now declines in rhyming verse. "But now I am aging; my brain is all shrunk,/And my adjective store is depleted;/My hair's getting stringy, I walk as though drunk;/ As a quotester I'm nigh-on defeated." Pair with our essays on the blurbing blunder: a history of blurbs, blurbs as publicity stunts, and the fundamental question — to blurb or not to blurb?
Don't forget to return your library books in Texas. This year an Austin man was arrested for failing to return a GED study guide that was three years overdue. Fines and arrest warrants are the new way to break even in towns with shrinking budgets. Other states, such as Iowa, Vermont, and Maine, are joining in.