Recommended Reading: Can desire thrive without freedom? On the works of Margaret Atwood and Michel Houellebecq in The Atlantic. Our essay on Atwood’s vision of the future and review of Ben Jeffery’s Anti-Matter: Michel Houellebecq and Depressive Realism pair nicely.
“I suppose the truth is I became a little self-conscious about people telling me how much they loved my sentences,” says James Salter in his interview with Jonathan Lee. “It’s flattering, but it seemed to me that this love of sentences was in some sense getting in the way of the book itself.” As it happens, our own Sonya Chung reviewed Salter’s latest book this week, and she, too, remarked on Salter’s desire “to ‘get past the great writer-of-sentences thing,’ and presumably the ‘writers’ writer’ thing.”
Much linked elsewhere, Triple Canopy has published the first complete English translation of the Roberto Bolano’s 1999 speech accepting the Romulo Gallegos Prize.Keith Gessen of n+1 and All the Sad Young Literary Men has started a blog. People who like to make grand pronouncements about such things and/or snark about them are all aflutter. (via)Onward in snark, Tao Lin describes the “Levels of Greatness” for the American novelist. Spoiler alert: Philip Roth wins again. (via)Robert McCrum chronicles his ten years as The Observer’s literary editor in ten chapters, from “Chapter 1: New Blood: Zadie Smith” to “Chapter 10: The Kindle.”
Listen to Pnin author Vladimir Nabokov read “An Evening of Russian Poetry” in the style—nay, as “an impersonation, in iambic pentameter, with fancy rhymes”—of that book’s titular professor.
“Could I write a novel about fugues in the form of a fugue?” Margot Singer wonders in The Paris Review, remembering the process of writing her first novel and considering other authors – Joyce, Nabokov, Woolf – who have tried to compose words musically. See also: our own Jacob Lambert on whether to write with background music on.
“I do remember thinking ‘You can’t get involved in the particle physics of fantasy.’ You can take it down to a certain level but if you get too involved in the particle physics then it’s not [useful] to continue. So I guess we have a branch of science that even its practitioners do not understand, that they may as well call magic.” Talking with David Mitchell.