“The first sentence, itself described as a ‘decoy for attention’ in a 1930 story on the new art, is a lure within a lure, created in a new economy increasingly predicated on commercial diversification and instant appeal, in a book market that had never been so populated.” Electric Lit takes us through the history of the novel’s first sentence. Pair with our essay on the art of the opening sentence.
Boston has announced the country's first "Literary Culture District," marked by memorials to Edgar Allen Poe and Sylvia Plath. It also includes some arguably less interesting sites - the buildings that used to house The Atlantic Monthly and Little, Brown and Company, for example. Caroline O'Donovan writes critically about the new district for The Baffler and concludes that "we’ve allowed glib cultural ideals to occlude economic realities, and tourism tax dollars to triumph over a candid conversation about the origins of art and the sustainability of its production."
"The immigrant who arrives too late in life to adapt to his new country, but too early to survive on nostalgia for the old country, has to create a third, imagined country to live in." Peter Pomerantsev writes for the London Review of Books about Brighton Beach, Russian immigrants and a "self-made America." Pair with Matthew Wolfson's review of Yelena Akhtiorskaya's novel of Brighton Beach and Odessa, Panic in a Suitcase.
Why is it okay to say “I’m working on a novel” but not okay to say “I’m working on my novel”? The former is a normal, straightforward, expression, while the latter smacks of arrogance and self-absorption. At Bookforum, Jesse Barron writes about the oddity of Working on My Novel, a collection of retweets (you read that correctly) of writers telling the world about their labors. It might also be a good time to read Dominic Smith on the number of novelists at work in America. (h/t Arts and Letters Daily)
Remember a few weeks ago when Paul Bogaards was kind enough to list us onto his Hierarchy of Book Publishing: The Top 100? We were entry no. 67, not nearly so powerful in the book publishing world as the original publisher of Kathryn Stockett's The Help, Amy Einhorn; her hair was entry no. 4. Though we were deemed slightly better than New Jersey, which was listed at no. 68. We even posted a curiosity about it. Well, the New York Observer's got a follow up piece on the joke, and is calling the original Tumblr post a flame out. Bogaards takes a different tack, saying that his Twitter and Tumblr streams are “a curation of industry anxiety. Interspersed with humor. And cocktails.”
Enlightenment comes in many guises, and though we usually think of it as arriving in a koi pond or a distant mountaintop, we can also find it, as the protagonist of Year in Reading alum Tom McCarthy’s new novel attempts to do, on Staten Island. In The New Republic, David Marcus reads the book.