Those of you with some knowledge of Pale Fire and Lolita won’t be surprised to learn what Nabokov thought of dinner parties. Namely, he thought they were awful, vaguely surreal events, held largely by drunkards with overriding appetites for drama. At The Paris Review Daily, Sadie Stein quotes a passage from “The Vane Sisters” to explain why “It’s hard to think of someone you’d want less at a midcentury faculty tea, save maybe a seething Shirley Jackson.” You could also read our own Garth Risk Hallberg on Nabokov’s Ada, or Ardor.
“Rather than outlining your plot in chronological order, try outlining your plot as if it were a candle burning at both ends. Begin the process by writing your first and last chapter simultaneously.” Amazon Author Insights gathers, well, insights on writing from Dan Brown and other famous crime and thriller novelists. (Full disclosure: Amazon helps us pay the bills around here!) We will also never not recommend this evergreen piece from our own archives, of writers on the best advice they ever received.
Renaissance Learning has released its annual report on what children are reading. The NYDaily News books blog takes offense at some of the more popular books named in the report, suggesting that kids and teens deserve to be challenged by better literature. The Huffington Post mines through the report to discover that American teenagers on average are still reading at or near the level of fifth graders.
Speaking of France: whether or not you find him disagreeable, Michel Houellebecq is pretty much guaranteed to elicit an emotional response from readers. His new opinion piece in The New York Times is no different. Here’s a review of Houellebecq’s The Map and the Territory that refers to him as a “petty misanthrope.”
From Lev Grossman’s blog, “A Brief Taxonomy of Writers”: “As far as I can tell there are two kinds of fiction writers: those who read no fiction while they write, and those who constantly read fiction while they write. Let’s have cute names for them. We’ll call them Soloists and Thieves.”
If you’re in New York this weekend, join Belladonna* and Kundiman for a celebration of what would have been the 60th birthday of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (a full life cycle event in the Chinese/Korean lunar calendar). Nine poets, including Cathy Park Hong, Myung Mi Kim, Sina Queyras, and Anne Waldman, will perform a staged reading from Dictee, Cha’s best known work. There will be birthday cake, projected images, scholarly contextualization, and other surprises. Saturday March 5, at the Bowery Poetry Club, 2pm.