“The first sentence, itself described as a ‘decoy for attention’ in a 1930 story on the new art, is a lure within a lure, created in a new economy increasingly predicated on commercial diversification and instant appeal, in a book market that had never been so populated.” Electric Lit takes us through the history of the novel’s first sentence. Pair with our essay on the art of the opening sentence.
“For a novelist, writing letters is writing that is not writing,” Ed Park says of P.G. Wodehouse’s collected correspondence, A Life in Letters. The Year in Reading alum goes on to note that “a collection of letters is the unconscious narrative the author generates over the years.”
Are you on Pinterest? If so, you may be interested in Alice Northover’s round-up of university presses and university libraries that use the site.
Millions contributor Kaya Genç reports on Istos, a Greek-owned publishing house based in Istanbul, Turkey, that’s “interested in challenging the partial, nostalgic stereotype of the old Greek community as a fashionable elite.” Meanwhile, across town, the Çağlayan Courts of Justice shocked the Turkish literati with a warning for the Sel Publishing House: stop publishing the “obscene” works of writers like William Burroughs and Chuck Palahniuk.
There’ll soon be a new literary website (and publisher!) in town. C0-created by the founders of Electric Literature and Black Balloon Publishing, and featuring Butter writer Mensah Demary as Associate Web Editor, Catapult will publish ebooks and print books, in addition to offering writing classes and publishing shorter pieces on its site. Get your stories and essays ready — they’re now accepting submissions.
I thoroughly enjoyed the second installment of Emdashes’ Ask the New Yorker Librarians series.Michiko Kakutani hates Jonathan Franzen’s new memoir, The Discomfort Zone. Kakutani’s wrath filled pen aside, Ed explains why she’s right, and I have to agree. I looked back through the archives here and realized I hadn’t elaborated on it much beyond writing back in 2003 that “Franzen’s non-fiction bugs the heck out of me,” but it put me off enough that I avoided reading The Corrections for a long time because of it.Speaking of reviews, it’s a good thing Bob Dylan didn’t get the Franzen treatment. He tells contactmusic.com that while he doesn’t care about music reviews, the reviews for Chronicles Vol. 1 meant a lot to him: “Most people who write about music, they have no idea what if feels like to play it, but, with the book I wrote, I thought, ‘The people who are writing reviews of this book, man, they know what the hell they’re talking about. They know how to write a book, they know more about it than me.’ The reviews of this book, some of ’em almost made me cry – in a good way. I’d never felt that from a music critic, ever.”Even though it seems like there’s another “book banning” story in the news every week, the AP reports that the 405 challenges reported to the American Library Association last year is the smallest number since they started keeping track in the early 1980s. The challenges have dropped by more than half since the ALA started Banned Books Week to promote free expression. Kudos to the librarians.The second most brilliant magazine in the world (refer to the top item in this list for the first), The Economist has a characteristically well-considered a piece on the newspaper industry’s timid efforts to embrace the Internet. Thanks to Millions contributor Andrew for sending this along.