“I can tell you that, as of today, I don’t feel any different about Mr Whitehead, or his review, or my response.” Richard Ford doubles down on his reaction to a negative 2001 review by fellow novelist Colson Whitehead. (Said response, in case you missed it, was to tell Whitehead ‘you’re a kid, you should grow up,’ and spit in his face.) We hope Whitehead is laughing at home with his Pulitzer Prize, recently awarded for last year’s literary juggernaut The Underground Railroad. And as our own Emily St. John Mandel reminds us, there are far more gracious ways to respond to criticism.
Tana French pegs the cause of Ireland’s financial crisis on “a total disconnect between action and consequence.” For many Irish citizens since the collapse of the Celtic Tiger, she writes, “their whole sense of a world governed by coherent cause and effect, of their ability to have any agency in their own lives, came under attack.” Bonus: our own Edan Lepucki has previously written about French’s novels and plotting.
New this week: The Age of Reinvention by Karine Tuil; The Burned Bridges of Ward, Nebraska by Eileen Curtright; Shock by Shock by Dean Young; The Selected Poems of Donald Hall; and On Cats by Charles Bukowski. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview.
“The [book] review’s pre-eminence is irrefutable: most people are acquainted with far, far more books through reviews than they could ever hope to read. And that is, generally, to the good.” Joseph Mackin explores why we write and read book reviews for the New York Journal of Books.
“In order to overcome their creative challenges, the authors I interviewed didn’t need to write prettier sentences: They needed to become more disciplined, more generous, braver. Literature seems to require these qualities of us, somehow, both in writing and in reading.” Joe Fassler‘s “By Heart” series at The Atlantic provides us with another year’s worth of writing wisdom, including advice from Alexander Chee, Michael Chabon, Lydia Millet, et al. We also highly recommend the conversation between Chee, Emily Barton, and Whitney Terrell about the decade each of them took to see their novels realized in the world.
“Perhaps it’s a sign that our literary culture is not quite so ailing that Smith managed to make a space for NW, to clear a third path, one that meanders through Willesden, through time, and through the mind.” Our own Emily M. Keeler on realism and Zadie Smith.
Brontë for babies? Board books, those small, sturdy volumes with the glossy cardboard “pages” – generally featuring rounded corners so babies who are teething don’t cut their gums or poke out their eyes, are getting ludicrous. A new series, we’re told on the back covers, “is a fashionable way to introduce your child to the world of classic literature.”
The essay is more than just a literary genre but a lifestyle, and it’s dominating American society, Christy Wampole argues. “The genre and its spirit provide an alternative to the dogmatic thinking that dominates much of social and political life in contemporary America,” she writes.