Recommended Reading: On lyric essays and trauma at Ploughshares. “I didn’t start writing lyric essays until I found out I had cancer. The melanoma buried in my right cheek was at first missed, and then misdiagnosed in its severity. Clark’s stage IV, they told me. Likely in my lymph nodes, but they wouldn’t know until my third surgery, the excision and biopsy.”
Want to make your writing shorter? Revise more. At The New York Times, Danny Heitman discusses the art of brevity. “Like passengers in a lifeboat, all the words in a concise text must pull their own weight.” Pair with: Our own Edan Lepucki’s essay on the challenges and benefits of brevity.
“This is a huge generalization, but [American novels] have tended not to have all the elements that make it good for television, whether it’s too interior or there’s not enough action. The Brits tended to write more colorful stories rather than the darkness and struggle. Dickens and Trollope certainly knew how to write sequels, books that would make good ongoing series again and again. And the greatest love stories are in the Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice. I don’t know what our equivalent is.” In a piece for The Atlantic Spencer Kornhaber wonders, “Is American Literature Too Dark for TV?“
“[Ludmilla] Petrushevskaya doesn’t write about isolated acts of depravity; she writes about universal ones,” says Michael Robbins in his review of There Once Lived a Girl. “What’s scary about her narratives is their implication that only the thinnest film, which might rip at any time, separates us from the chaos and breakdown they describe.” Our own Janet Potter also reviewed Petrushevskaya’s work this week, and she focused on the romantic hopes of its characters. “What’s remarkable,” Potter writes, “is not the love they find, but the fact that they’re looking for it.”
“I don’t want to settle for distraction; I want to look forward to reading my book with the palpitating excitement of a second date with someone I’ve already fallen for. I want to miss my stop. Ideally, I’ll miss a few.” While it can be easy to spot a beach, airplane, or cabin read, Adam Sternbergh‘s writes about finding the perfect “subway read” for the New York Times. From our archives: our own Nick Ripatrazone‘s essay on reading and writing on trains.
Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, is now out in the U.S. Also new this week are John D’Agata’s much-discussed Lifespan of a Fact, Sarah Manguso’s The Guardians, Ellen Ullman’s By Blood and The Boiling Season by Christopher Hebert, who has an essay up on our site today. The new memoir by Anthony Shadid has seen its release date pushed up to this week. See our remembrance of Shadid. Finally, it’s Christmas for baseball fans: the 2012 Baseball Prospectus is out.