“What if, instead of simply critiquing Go Set a Watchman’s failure, we tried to analyze it? The new, older work makes more sense if we read it as an attempt to accomplish two tasks: first, to master—unsuccessfully, it turns out—the smart-magazine style that Harper Lee developed in her student journalism; and second, to write in a genre that often relied on the ironic elisions typical of ‘smart style’: the midcentury social-problem novel.” Tom Perrin on Harper Lee and the social novel. Pair with Michael Bourne’s Millions review.
David Foster Wallace stranded on a desert island.Another reason to love Washington Post critic Jonathan Yardley: his refreshingly enthusiastic take on "slacker fiction" and All the Sad Young Literary Men by Keith Gessen, who, admittedly, "scarcely qualifies as a slacker."Paul Auster was a protesting, fence-tearing, rioting crazy '68er, too, it turns out.The phenomenal Burkhard Bilger supplements his New Yorker piece on folk-music field recordings with some audio.Malcolm Gladwell's seemingly endless string of public appearances continues. This one is, intriguingly, a public "book discussion" with the Washington, D.C. chief of police.With some speculating that CBS News is about to close up shop and that Katie Couric is on her way out, rumors are already swirling about the obligatory memoir.Jonathan Franzen answers the question "Do you regret your run-in with Oprah?" in a "Big Think" video. Aficionados of Franzen mannerisms may also enjoy the other fifteen or so Franzen videos that Big Think has available.
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George Saunders shares his thoughts on writing his first full-length novel, the forthcoming Lincoln in the Bardo. As he puts it, “It’s like when you’re writing your first book, and you’re trying to figure out what kind of writer you are. This was like that.” Pair with our own Elizabeth Minkel’s piece on Saunders and the question of literary greatness.