“I’m fascinated by epigenetics. My father had polio that affected his left leg, and I walk with my left foot turned in for no good reason at all. I was attacked by a dog when I was ten, and both my daughters have an irrational fear of dogs. It makes a strange kind of sense.” Year in Reading alum Rebecca Makkai discusses Music for Wartime and her writing process with Christine Rice. We interviewed Makkai following the release of The Hundred-Year House.
Over at the Story Prize blog, Year in Reading alumnus Colum McCann shares a letter of advice to writers starting their career. As he puts it, “A story begins long before its first word. It ends long after its last… [it] reveal[s] a truth that isn’t yet there.”
“Art isn’t a footrace. No one comes in first place. Greatness is not a universally agreed-upon value. … America isn’t one story. It’s a layered and diverse array of identities, individual and collective, forged on contradictory realities that are imbued with and denied privilege and power. Our obsession with the Great American Novel is perhaps evidence of the even greater truth that it’s impossible for one to exist. As Americans, we keep looking anyway.” Cheryl Strayed and Adam Kirsch discuss the Great American Novel in this week’s New York Times Bookends. For a slightly different take, consider the 9 novels our experts chose as the Greatest American novels, from Moby-Dick to The Godfather.
When asked about his tenure as a professor of creative writing, Harry Crews used to say, “I may be at the university, but I damn sure ain’t of the university.” But in talking to his former students, Crews’s biographer, Ted Geltner, found that in spite of the writer’s efforts to distance himself from academia, he really was a passionate, memorable teacher. (Bonus: Yours truly named one Crews work his “most representative” Florida book.)