“We have all heard the claim, ‘the victors write the textbooks.’ Among the many ways to unpack the phrase is this: that once upon a time history was bound to and relied on communally agreed upon facts. That is to say, there was not a culture of record the way there is now. There were not cameras and photographs capturing all human movement or digital archives where information was stored in ‘clouds.’ While our methods for remembering have evolved, the ethical question at the heart of recollection remains: how do we tell about the past and who gets to tell it?” Lindsey Drager writes for the Michigan Quarterly Review about memory and storytelling.
The gorgeous paperback edition of our own Garth Risk Hallberg’s A Field Guide to the North American Family is now out. Also new and noteworthy are Francisco Goldman’s New Yorker excerpted story of the death of his young wife Say Her Name, Meg Wolitzer’s The Uncoupling, Ann Packer’s Swim Back to Me, Blake Butler’s There is No Year, and Phillip Connors’s intriguing debut, Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout. Elsewhere, we’ve got Tina Fey’s raved about memoir Bossypants and a new and long in the works biography of Malcolm X, whose author, Manning Marable died just last week on the eve of the book’s publication. Finally, now out in paperback is the fiction blockbuster The Help.
On bad days, when his writer’s block was at its worst, Hart Crane wrote bizarre, feverish prose poetry as a way of juicing his creative synapses. Understandably, he never published this poetry, but now, thanks to the Harry Ransom Center, we can read it in its original form. Sample quote: “I held the crupper by a lasso conscripted from white mice tails spliced to the fore-top gallant.”
“Almost as soon as the concept of the Great American Novel was invented, in the nation-building years after the Civil War, Buell finds it being mocked, noting that one observer dryly put it into the same category as ‘other great American things such as the great American sewing-machine, the great American public school, and the great American sleeping-car.’ It was enough of a cliché by 1880 for Henry James to refer to it with the acronym ‘GAN,’ which Buell employs throughout his book.” On the reigning gold standard for quality in American fiction. (Related: we asked nine experts their picks for the best American novel.)
Maybe nobody read your first, or last, most recent or only book, but writer, take heart: nobody read the work of these 10 great authors either.