Matthew Salesses talks about moral fiction and how to address prejudice in writing at Electric Lit. A piece of his essay: “The writing of fiction cannot treat marginalized characters as vessels, cannot let the plot play out the racism of under-enlightened protagonists. Perhaps the ultimate conclusion is that one cannot write without prejudice unless one understands that one has prejudice.” Pair with his recent essay at The Millions on plot and the inciting incident.
Hot new online magazine Full Stop has chosen The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books as its inaugural book club selection. The discussion will be happening all this week.
Don’t Cry author Mary Gaitskill reviews Gillian Flynn’s wildly successful thriller, Gone Girl, for the pages of Bookforum. What she finds is that the book isn’t really frightening because of its plot per se, but rather because its two main characters “do not resemble actual people so much as grotesquely smiling masks driven by forces of extreme artifice, and it’s exactly that extreme artificial quality that’s frightening to the point of sickening.” For what it’s worth, Edan Lepucki, Michael Bourne, Ed Park, Janet Potter, and Jennifer duBois each named Flynn’s book in their most recent Year in Reading pieces.
If you’re eagerly anticipating the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, be prepared to wait until 2034. You can blame the internet for the delay, which has made research easier but also leads to information overload. There are so many new words that the dictionary would be 40 volumes if it ever makes it to print, but expect it to be only online instead. For more on the new OED, read a profile of new editor Michael Proffitt.
Jennifer Egan recently spoke with Willing Davidson, fiction editor of The New Yorker, as part of Rewiring the Real, a yearlong series of podcasts with writers about the interplay of literature, technology and religion. Rachel Hurn, a former Millions intern, was there and noted Egan’s ambivalence towards “personal writing.” [Updated to correct the quote] “If writing necessarily meant writing about myself, then I’d rather do something else,” Egan said.
Michiko Kakutani‘s generous and oddly moving review of Jay-Z‘s Decoded – in which she seems to find a kindred spirit – almost makes me want to take back all the mean things I’ve said about her. I still don’t trust her judgment, but the review’s worth reading just for the mental image of her in big headphones, nodding along to “Streets Is Watching.” Go ‘head, shorty.