Our own Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire is almost here. While we wait, read Boris Kachka’s profile of Hallberg for Vulture, about the expectation surrounding his highly anticipated 944-page debut novel and the experience of writing a book that is “unpublishably long.” We’ll be publishing our own illuminating interview with Hallberg on Monday.
“Learning to really listen to it and learning to kind of embrace it, rather than running away from it, was a very useful thing to do,” says Hari Kunzru of the sounds of New York City’s streets. The sirens, horns, and arguments are the inspiration for his new “multimedia book,” Twice Upon a Time: Listening to New York. (Bonus: Kunzru has participated in our Year in Reading series two times in the past.)
If your characters go on a road trip, do you have to take one, too? When Mary Miller wrote The Last Days of California about a family driving from Alabama to California to meet the rapture, she hadn’t even been to the desert herself. To ensure it was accurate, though, she mapped important destinations on the route. “For Western Louisiana, I thought, ‘Is there actually a Waffle House within forty miles of this border?’ because I wanted it to be accurate. So I had maps, and I was tracking mileage,” she told Down & Out.
Junot Díaz has criticized MFA programs for being “too white.” So what’s on his syllabi? Salon found the syllabi for the two courses Díaz teaches at MIT. In his fantasy world-building class, students read everyone from Bram Stoker to Octavia Butler. His advanced fiction course includes stories by Edwidge Danticat and Roberto Bolaño. Where can we sign up?
“It is a sad irony that the snake’s rattle, which functions as a warning device, is widely regarded as a bellicose drumroll, or war-cry, instead. It may well have been in a mood of remorse for having killed a rattlesnake on impulse that [William] Bartram, vowing solemnly that he ‘would never again be accessory to the death of a rattle snake,’ painted his marvelous portrait of a coiled rattler.” Christopher Benfey on Rattlesnake Island, a sanctuary set up to protect the woodland serpents from their greatest danger — us.