“I live a life of appetite and, yes, that’s right, / I live a life of privilege in New York, / Eating buttered toast in bed with cunty fingers on Sunday morning. / Say that again? / I have a rule— / I never give to beggars in the street who hold their hands out.” Frederick Siedel’s brusqueness makes many readers uncomfortable, yet many others revere him for his “brave cunning.” Whichever side of the fence you fall on, this is an interesting take from Don Chiasson at The New Yorker.
I really dug this write up of a visit by Edward P. Jones to a Seattle high school, where he talked to some kids about being a writer. I’m fascinated by Jones’ persona. He’s not a hermit, but neither is he a part of the more public contemporary literary crowd, all of whom seem to be associated with the same causes and who enjoy this sort of literary pseudo-fame while at the same time making a bit of a show about shying away from it. Of course I’m overgeneralizing here, but I’m sure you can think of some writers who might fit that description. I suppose my larger point is Jones seems to me to be a writer who, in an earlier time, would have only achieved fame late in his career or even posthumously, and I’m just really glad that he has gotten the acclaim that he deserves.I saw the movie Fever Pitch last night and enjoyed the way last year’s baseball season was woven into the story so well. It also made me very curious to read Nick Hornby’s novel by the same name, in which the protagonist is a rabid soccer fan. I’m not a big Hornby fan, but I’m very curious to see if they managed to swap out the sport at the center of the story while keeping the same overall feeling. Quite a feat if they managed to do a good job of it. One thing is clear though, trying to slap a movie tie-in cover on Hornby’s book wouldn’t have worked very well.Rodger Jacobs has set up a blog to track entries in his “Fitzgerald in Hollywood Short Fiction Contest.”Chicagoist looks at books “with local ties.” I’ve read All This Heavenly Glory and Gods in Alabama, but the third book The Week You Weren’t Here by Charles Blackstone sounds interesting.
It’s a big week for literary new releases. Chris Adrian’s much anticipated new novel The Great Night is now out, as is Francine Prose’s My New American Life. Also new this week are Roddy Doyle’s latest collection of stories, Bullfighting, and the reissue of William Boyd’s impish prank of a book, Nat Tate: An American Artist. Finally, past Booker shortlister Linda Grant has a new novel out called We Had It So Good.
Nowadays, Lord of the Flies is a byword for savagery, a book that illustrates more potently than any other just how low it’s possible for humanity to sink. In The Guardian, Robert McCrum ties the book’s conception to the second World War, arguing that its view of the world was “unimaginable” without Nazi Europe.
As Nick Richardson notes for the London Review of Books, Saul Bellow’s son, Adam, has his hands full these days. When he’s not maintaining a site devoted to conservative “literature,” he’s extolling the virtues of conservative fiction writers you “probably have never heard of — and won’t, if the powers that rule the lit-crit, fanfic, and commercial publishing worlds have anything to say about it.”
Do our brains determine how we write? Joyce Dyer explores the possibility that genre is influenced by how our brains are wired but wonders if that limits us. “The page may be forcing compromises that the brain, in such close relationship with the mind, must rightly refuse,” she writes.