“I learned through imitation, but it was only when I followed—or found—my own voice that I was able to derive a different kind of inspiration from reading fiction, something subtler and more expansive. Today, when I reach a wall in my own work, I turn to authors I love to remind myself what is possible: that sentence, that structure, that daring twist of plot.” Chloe Benjamin, who just yesterday published a piece on choosing book titles for The Millions, writes about the dangers and rewards of reading while writing for Poets and Writers’ Recommends series.
Sherlock Holmes has solved his greatest mystery yet. It only took 125 years, but Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective is in the public domain. A federal judge has ruled that all Sherlock Holmes stories published before January 1, 1923 are no longer under U.S. copyright law.
Canonical literature isn’t the only way to learn about America. The bestseller list can be equally as telling. Matthew Kahn is reading 100 years of No. 1 bestsellers from 1913 to 2013. He blogs about the books and discusses the project in an interview with Salon’s Laura Miller. When Miller asks what makes a bestseller, he claims, “A lot of it is just a matter of accessibility. A focus on plot and character rather than structure and the prose itself.”
In the New York Times, a review of 2013 Year in Reading alum Olivia Laing’s new book, which delves into the alcoholism of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and six other famous writers. Among the biographical tidbits in the book: Tennessee Williams had a brandy Alexander every day when he lived in New Orleans.
VQR has published an essay by Chris Fischbach of Coffee House Press that provides an overview of some of the innovative small presses at work today. Fischbach specifically mentions Tin House, Melville House and Two Dollar Radio as “nimble” publishing houses that “can try things big publishers might not find worthwhile or consistent with the aims of a traditional publishing program,” such as producing micro-budget films or illustrated versions of classic works of literature.