E.L. Doctorow, the renowned novelist and fiction writer best known for books including Ragtime, Billy Bathgate and the National Book Award-winning World’s Fair, passed away in Manhattan last night at the age of 84. You could read one of our numerous pieces about his work if you’d like to look back on his life and career.
This week in the New Yorker Jane Hu analyzes the “dispassionate first-person narrators” prominent in works by English-speaking Asian authors and questions whether that makes it easier to identify with the narrator. She uses Chemistry by NBA 5 under 35 honoree Weike Wang as an example along with other recent works. “Against this tradition, there is, perhaps, another emerging, of Asian-Anglophone writers who both play with and thus begin to undo these tropes of Asian impersonality. The novels by Ishiguro, Park, Lin, and Wang all feature first-person narrators who keep their distance—actively denying readers direct interior access. This is true, it’s important to note, even when the characters they write are not themselves Asian.”
Why does the mythological connection between suffering and creativity persist? Writers and other artists, AL Kennedy contends, should spend less time intent on suffering and more time intent on making things. See also our own Sonya Chung, on the new writerly happiness.