Our own Emily St. John Mandel is in conversation with Laura van den Berg over at the FSG blog. “We have such a mania for classification, don’t we? Everything just seems so black-or-white, one-or-zero, genre-or-literary sometimes, and I don’t think those divisions are especially helpful.” The authors are Year in Reading alumni, and you can check out Mandel’s and van den Berg’s posts at the respective links.
“What is missing from Testimony is the customary idealistic hero, the one last encountered in Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass who doesn’t avert his eyes from suffering and sordidness, but who nevertheless is full of hope for a better future. Testimony is a corrective, an anti-epic.” Charles Simić recounts Charles Reznikoff’s long poem Testimony: The United States (1885-1915): Recitative in the NYRB.
Recommended Reading: a piece from the New York Review of Books blog on modern attention spans and what they mean for literature. Hint: it’s not looking too promising. Tim Parks closes with a prediction that “the novel of elegant, highly distinct prose, of conceptual delicacy and syntactical complexity, will tend to divide itself up into shorter and shorter sections, offering more frequent pauses where we can take time out. The larger popular novel, or the novel of extensive narrative architecture, will be ever more laden with repetitive formulas, and coercive, declamatory rhetoric to make it easier and easier, after breaks, to pick up, not a thread, but a sturdy cable.”
At the Philadelphia Inquirer, neurologists look at cases where serious brain injury has actually brought about higher levels of creativity in artists, particularly where linguistic ability is harmed. “Language is the bully of the brain,” [one neurologist] says. “It takes up its own space and if something else gets crowded out, too bad.” (via Book Bench)
2010 is soon to be over. That means that The Morning News Tournament of Books is almost upon us. Two excellent developments this year: 1) the folks behind the Rooster have released the longlist of titles under consideration to make the final 16 (including The Singer’s Gun by our own Emily St. John Mandel) and 2) they have left one judging spot open that you (you!) can apply to fill.
Author Elaine Dundy died last week. Terry Teachout excerpted his introduction to her book, The Dud Avocado. Edan mentioned the book not long ago in a “staff picks” post.”The One-Room M.F.A. Program“For John O’Brien, “Three” is not the magic number.Car names deemed “too academic:” Dodge Dissertation Defense V8, Chrysler Course Calendar Convertible, etc.AbeBooks’ online symposium on book burning.