Amidst all the controversy surrounding Go Set a Watchman, one question that gets left out is how realistic, exactly, the book is in its depiction of its setting. At Salon, Scott Timberg sits down with Professor Angela Thorburg, who makes a case that regardless of its literary qualities, Watchman is “a very accurate perspective of what’s going on here in the South.”
"What I’ve found is that a lot of soldiers are surprisingly apolitical. Their reality is, 'Today I’m going to leave the gate for twelve hours, and I’m going to make it back to the dining facility by sundown with the arms and legs of me and my buddies intact.' So you say, 'Well, what about the Project for the New American Century and the preexisting agenda blah blah blah?' They go, 'Yeah, that’s cool, but I have to get through today.' So their reality is not a political reality as much as it’s, 'If I’m driving by this piece of garbage, will it blow up?'" Revisit this old interview with Henry Rollins over at Guernica Magazine, which manages the nearly impossible: to be both level-headed and political.
If your characters go on a road trip, do you have to take one, too? When Mary Miller wrote The Last Days of California about a family driving from Alabama to California to meet the rapture, she hadn't even been to the desert herself. To ensure it was accurate, though, she mapped important destinations on the route. "For Western Louisiana, I thought, 'Is there actually a Waffle House within forty miles of this border?' because I wanted it to be accurate. So I had maps, and I was tracking mileage," she told Down & Out.
“Tom Stoppard isn't shy about tackling literary giants. The British playwright has rewritten Hamlet for the stage and recently turned Tolstoy's Anna Karenina into a Hollywood feature. But he struggled with a television adaptation of Ford Madox Ford's sprawling modernist masterpiece Parade's End.”
Reflecting on the sales figures of Lean In and How to Win Friends and Influence People, Sarah L. Corteau wonders: could it be that self-help is America's quintessential genre? (You could also read Alan Levinowitz on the paradox of Christian self-help books.)
"The blackly comic energy of Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts—its caustic ebullience, the strange buoyancy of its suffering—is a remarkably American achievement, a kind of death-dance capered on the corpse of a vividly rendered early 1930s Manhattan." On Miss Lonelyhearts, the darkest American masterpiece.