“Start with the novel’s climax (often the first thing you know about it, its most striking moment) and work backward, asking why-why-why. Then write forward.” Nell Zink at The Lithub on how to become a novelist in 10 easy steps. See also our interview with Zink from last week.
This week in book-related infographics: a chart of just how long it takes kids to finish popular books. Where the Wild Things Are? 4 minutes. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? 24 hours.
During the Cold War, the CIA became entrenched in cultural life through an organization named, ironically enough, the Congress for Cultural Freedom. In order to fight communism, they funded socialist artists. The Awl has compiled a list of literary journals, including the Kenyon Review and The Paris Review, that were once supported by the CIA.
“Gobble a lot of fiction very quickly and you soon find yourself suffering from the literary equivalent of a food intolerance. Oh no, you think, not another novel about X or Y. At these moments, only one thing keeps you going: the faint hope that the book in question might turn out to be the greatest novel ever written about X or Y.” Rachel Cooke writes for The Guardian about reading 80 books in four months and the process of judging the Folio prize.
New this week is The Tiger’s Wife, the hotly anticipated debut of Téa Obreht, the youngest of the New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 from last year. Also new in the fiction aisle is Carol Edgarian’s Three Stages of Amazement. David Brooks’s latest pop sociology effort The Social Animal is now out — this one, excerpted in the New Yorker — sets itself apart from similar tomes by illustrating its findings through a pair of fictional characters. Now out in paperback are National Book Award winner Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon, Ian McEwan’s Solar, and Rebecca Skloot’s non-fiction blockbuster The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
The Empathy Exams, a new collection of essays by Leslie Jamison, gets its title from a piece about medical acting that was published in The Believer. On the Harper’s blog, you can read an interview with Jamison, who calls her collection “a refusal to choose between these approaches — criticism, confession, journalism.” (Michelle Huneven interviewed Jamison for The Millions a couple of years ago.)