“When we read a book that requires that effort — when the act of reading becomes rigorous and self-aware, rather than effortless and transparent — we get to have a history with what we’ve given ourselves to, a history etched into us by the demanding friction of its difficulty.” Zoë Heller and Leslie Jamison debate whether or not we overvalue difficult literature in The New York Times.
In an interview for Guernica Jonathan Lee talks to Chris Parris-Lamb, the literary agent who represented Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding, John Darnielle's National Book Award-nominated Wolf in White Van, and now our very own Garth Risk Hallberg's upcoming City on Fire, about "The Art of Agenting." Pair with our own Edan Lepucki's conversation with her agent, "Don't Ever Do It for the Money," and with the opening lines of City on Fire, a Millions exclusive.
The L.A. Times Book Prize finalists for 2013 have been announced. The five finalists in fiction are: Percival Everett's Percival Everett by Virgil Russell, Claire Messud's The Woman Upstairs (also see her Year in Reading post), Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being, Susan Steinberg's Spectacle, and Daniel Woodrell's The Maid’s Version. The winner will be announced on April 11.
"The internet teems with writerly advice, almost all of which suggests that creativity is served best by monasticism, a quiet life filled with pencils—but that kind of advice seems to take a very short view of history, overlooking the one classic way to rouse the capricious Muses: sexually transmitted disease." According to The Hairpin, maybe it's not an MFA you need, just syphilis. After all, it seems to have worked for James Joyce, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Oscar Wilde and many, many others.
Hugo Lindgren, editor of The New York Times Magazine, participated in a pretty nifty Reddit Ask Me Anything installment. When one commenter asked him how long it takes to prepare each week’s Meh List, Lindgren wrote, “The Meh list never stops. The actual compilation of it is lickety split but the hunt for Meh is eternal.” He also admitted that two of his favorite magazine stories are Mark Jacobson’s “Night-Shifting for the Hip Fleet” and John Hersey’s “Hiroshima” [Reg. Req.].
A new study says that book readers live two years longer than their non-reading counterparts. As they explain it, “While most sedentary behaviors are well-established risk factors for mortality in older individuals, previous studies of a behavior that is often sedentary, reading… have not compared the health benefits of reading-material type.” Pair with this Millions essay on private libraries and what books reveal about their readers.
“I thought it was going to be a short novel, that it was one person’s story. But I was wrong, because history is always shaping everything.” The New York Times reviews Marlon James's latest novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, which we covered in our "Great Second-Half 2014 Book Preview."