Over at Electric Literature, John Freeman profiles Year in Reading alumnus Ben Lerner, newly minted MacArthur genius and author of two novels in which “the political opens a path for the personal, just as the personal urges him to engage the political.” Freeman writes, “This blending—of perception and politics—comes right out of how Lerner sees the world in real life.” Pair with Christopher Wood’s Millions review of Lerner’s 10:04.
Longtime writers know how hard it can be to tell when a piece is finished. Tolstoy famously tried to revise War and Peace right up to the book’s publication. At the Ploughshares blog, Amy Jo Burns offers tips for evaluating a piece before deciding to give it to someone else.
As part of the ongoing Miami Book Fair International festivities, WLRN is giving readers a chance to co-author a story with Junot Díaz. Beginning at 5pm today, they will tweet out the first line to a story—provided by Díaz—from their Twitter account. Then readers will use the hashtag “#WLRNStory” to add onto Díaz’s line, and later each other’s lines, and ultimately the entire thing will unfurl before them.
Garth, Ben, Andrew and Max appear in today’s “Digest” at The Morning News. The topic is movies based on books. Also at TMN: the Tournament of Books is underway.Readers with an interest in sales figures for books and their drawbacks should take a look at the comments of our follow-up post on the Beautiful Children free book promotion. Several anonymous commenters, whom one suspects are probably industry insiders, have shared their insights.A quick but interesting interview with Paul Theroux. This summer, Theroux’s Ghost Train to the Eastern Star will be published. In it, he retraces his path from The Great Railway Bazaar thirty years ago. (via)The National Book Critics Circle Award winners have been announced. In the fiction category, Junot Díaz took home the prize for The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao. Díaz was a part of our Year in Reading in December.The finalists have been announced for the Kiriyama Prize, which recognizes books that “relate in some significant way to the Pacific Rim or South Asia, to a particular culture or part(s) of these regions, or to people from these regions.” Among them is I Love Dollars by Zhu Wen, which was reviewed here by Ben, from which a blurb was used on the Kiriyama Prize site.The Stranger reminds us of our bookselling days, chasing those damn book thieves down the street.The Observer reports on two new bylines arriving at the New Yorker, Kelefa Sanneh and Ariel Levy of the New York Times and New York respectively. (via)Literary frauds are all over the news again, and the LA Times serves up a delightful accounting of hoaxers going all the way back to the 1700s. (via)We are all stereotypical readers: “The British buy books by television personalities, Americans are obsessed with self-improvement, French choices are more highbrow, the Germans like holidays while the Japanese have more eclectic tastes.” (via)A new issue of The Quarterly Conversation is out. Among the offerings: over- and underrated books and Sam J. Miller’s essay positing that short stories are far from dead, as some big names would have you think.Apple head honcho Steve Jobs told the New York Times in January that “people don’t read anymore.” The Raleigh Quarerly took umbrage and is now holding a contest that asks for submissions “featuring a main character named, uh, Steve, who reads something that transforms his life.”
The office novel, by nature, is a tricky construct, if only because your average white-collar job doesn’t offer much in the way of fiction-worthy moments. That said, recent books like Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris demonstrate how fruitful it can be to wring drama out of the rat race. In the latest issue of Dissent, Cubed author Nikil Saval delves into the contradictions of office fiction. FYI, Saval wrote a Year in Reading entry for us.
“We lived in the Midlands, and when I moved to Dublin for university Frank liked to call me up and talk to me about my late mother, whom he informed me was ‘no saint’.” Sally Rooney’s short story from the New Irish Writing issue of Granta is now available on the Literary Hub website.