Recommended Reading: Robert Macfarlane at The Guardian on what it means to be living in the Anthropocene age–in which human influence on the planet is permanent and profound–and how our writers and artists are responding to the crisis.
Even as much of the Eastern U.S. is lashed by a massive storm, we have new books this week, skewing mostly to non-fiction, including Kurt Vonnegut’s collected letters, Richard Russo’s memoir Elsewhere, James Wood’s collection of essays The Fun Stuff, and Peter Carlin’s authorized biography of Bruce Springsteen. On the fiction side is Emma Donoghue’s Astray.
Gerrard Winstanley’s 1649 “The True Levellers Standard Advanced.” The True Levellers were a radical Protestant sect that founded a commune in Surrey during the English Civil War. In this rather astonishing and neglected declaration, Winstanley argues that God intended the earth to be a common treasury for all and that disparities in property and power between the rich and the poor are unholy and need to be abolished. (Billy Bragg has a song on Back to Basics called “The World Turned Upside Down” that’s based on the Diggers’ Song, also written by Winstanley.)Bookride documents the surprising desirability of W.G. Sebald books among collectors. “At one point his books were making exceptional sums on Ebay and people wanted ephemera, posters, recordings and anything to do with his legendary walk from Lowestoft to Boulge.” The Rings of Saturn is coveted in particular. Only a few hundred copies of the English first edition were printed and they mostly turn up in East Anglia.Many a freelance journalist has pondered the idea of an online marketplace for writing in recent years, one that might ease the inefficiencies and frustration of pitching articles. Attempting to fill that gap is Reporterist, a journalism marketplace. One of the founders offers up details of the project in an interview with the Online Journalism Review.
The L.A. Times Book Prize finalists for 2013 have been announced. The five finalists in fiction are: Percival Everett’s Percival Everett by Virgil Russell, Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs (also see her Year in Reading post), Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, Susan Steinberg’s Spectacle, and Daniel Woodrell’s The Maid’s Version. The winner will be announced on April 11.
Argentina may be offering a $940/month pension plan for writers. Eligibility requirements include 20 years of work in “literary creation” and five published works with ISBN numbers. This bill was proposed amidst the festivities of the Buenos Aires International Book Expo, one of the biggest book expos in the world.
Novels that focus on obsessive characters hinge on persnickety details. The need to depict accurately the mind of an obsessive demands that the novelist overemphasize the trifling and tangential. In The Kenyon Review, Vanessa Blakeslee reviews a new and representative example of the form, The Understory by Pamela Erens. Sample quote: “When the smaller steps of daily life are magnified, does that narrative reach its greatest potential for a unified and powerful resonance?” FYI, Erens has written for us.