“Skipping or skimming parts of a narrative should not only be expected but encouraged, particularly if an author is writing without clarity or purpose or showing off. Life’s too short to slog through some smarty-pants attempt to demonstrate a mastery of mechanical engineering or botany.” Adam Kirsch and Anna Holmes face off for The New York Times Bookends column about whether there are right and wrong ways to read a book.
We cover a decent number of literary awards here at The Millions, but we, like most magazines, have a tendency to focus on the present. At the LARB, Andrew Nicholls makes up for this by recounting the very first book awards, in which Mooluu’s “The Beast Attacked” goes head-to-head with Kurtan the Elder’s “Why Half My Face is Missing.” You could also read our own Mark O’Connell on why we care about literary prizes to begin with.
Sudoku getting too easy, you say? Try making (or, rather, writing) one instead, like this nine-paneled comic that works across, down, or on a diagonal.
New this week: 4321 by Paul Auster; The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker; Mr. Iyer Goes to War by Ryan Lobo; The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping by Aharon Appelfeld; and The Evenings by Gerard Reve. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
Interested in writing a bestseller? You may want to check out Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers‘ newest book, The Bestseller Code. Or maybe not: “At times, it seems like Archer and Jockers are trying to retrofit a closed system. They found that best-sellers have lots of contractions—the better, they explain, to mimic contemporary speech—and exclamation points only rarely … They conclude that best-sellers consist of ‘shorter, cleaner sentences, without unneeded words,’ and that best-selling characters ‘make things happen.’ Active verbs predict best-sellers better than passive verbs. ‘Hesitation doesn’t keep pages turning,’ Archer and Jockers decide. After all that work, in other words, the algorithm ends up confirming the uncontested tenets of craft and style.”
“We aim to foster a review culture where all genders can write about all topics and be met with equitable coverage.” Launched last year by a group of McGill University students, Just Review is an advocacy project that aims to help publications combat gender bias in the literary and publishing worlds. Would that this weren’t such an evergreen subject.