In theory, the author of a great novel is invisible to the reader, letting her stories and characters speak for themselves. In practice, however, it can help for an author to make herself known, as explained by Tim Parks in this essay. Sample quote: “We have the impression that if someone ever did find the full story of his life, we would immediately recognize the person we had in mind.”
“He was known to step out for cigarette breaks onto a narrow ledge beyond the bedroom windows. Attached to the wall next to a door is a brass speaking tube that he used to call down for lunch.” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby house on Long Island sold for $3 million earlier this year, but you can still own a piece of him: The Washington Post reports that the four-bedroom Victorian in Minnesota where he penned the manuscript This Side of Paradise is currently listed at $625,000.
Granta has a new series in which authors explain how they arrived at successful opening sentences. In the latest installment, Colombian author Héctor Abad links the brain chemistry that inspired him to write his chosen sentence with the chemistry that inspired him to fall in love with his wife.
“It only took me 10 years to get the verb tenses right!” Our own Garth Risk Hallberg reflects on the process of updating his debut novella, A Field Guide to the North American Family, recently reissued in a new edition by Knopf. See also: our interview with him on the occasion of the release of his blockbuster City on Fire.