“A novel is a trek home from the desert, sometimes a journey you wish you had never started. Exhausting and humbling, just occasionally wonderful. But a short story can come from a deeper part of the cave.” Jane Gardam on why she prefers writing short stories instead of novels in The Guardian. Pair with Lisa Peet’s essay on Gardam’s organically grown characters.
“Will anyone in America give a damn about Beig? It’s hard to imagine our glittering zeitgest machine ever getting behind her, with her landscape, her women, her knowledge of the secret lives of animals born for the hatchet. Her writing, so invested in the disappearing rural world, is particular, yes, but universal: her characters love and long and pine away.” Matthew Neill Null is unsatisfied with how American readers have treated the work of the great German novelist Maria Beig. He makes a passionate case in her favor in this new essay over at The Paris Review.
“I wish all this telling women alcohol is dangerous was a manifestation of a country that loves babies so much it’s all over lead contamination from New Orleans to Baltimore to Flint and the lousy nitrate-contaminated water of Iowa and carcinogenic pesticides and the links between sugary junk food and juvenile diabetes and the need for universal access to healthcare and daycare and good and adequate food. You know it’s not. It’s just about hating on women. Hating on women requires narratives that make men vanish and make women magicians producing babies out of thin air and dissolute habits.” Rebecca Solnit on the passive voice, mysterious pregnancies, disappearing men, and the Center for Disease Control. Pair with this Millions review of Solnit’s book The Faraway Nearby.
“Why write in an unlovable genre with an inevitably hectoring tone? Dystopia, situated in a dangerous no-man’s-land between the pulpit of the preacher and the safe sniper post of the satirist.” Future futurists, take note: the New York Review of Books reviews Chang-Rae Lee’s addition to your dystopic shelf, On Such a Full Sea, and ponders the virtues of the dystopic endeavor itself. (Bonus: Lee writes about his own 2013 Year in Reading here at The Millions.)
“[E]ach video is a portrait of the artist as a beginner—and a look at the creative process, in all its joy, abjection, delusion, and euphoria.” The Paris Review has a new video series called “My First Time,” in which big-name authors talk about getting their start. Helen DeWitt, Jeffrey Eugenides, Sheila Heti, a chain-smoking Karl Ove Knausgaard – what more could anyone want? More origin stories, that’s what! Six writers – Colum McCann, Alexander Chee, Jami Attenberg, Emily St. John Mandel, Justin Taylor, and Anthony Marra – look back on their first books for us.