Out this week: Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang; Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta; The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet; New People by Danzy Senna; Gravel Heart by Abdulrazak Gurnah; and White Plains by Gordon Lish. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
Anya Ulinich, author of Petropolis, talks to World Literature Today: “What else can a person do when she gets home after a ten-hour work day – with a toothache that she can’t afford to fix . . . – but fall on the couch and watch whatever is in front of her face?” . . . Lydia Davis, whose Collected Stories is just out, talks to Sarah Manguso for The Believer: “At the origin of the work there has to be strong feeling, if it’s going to be any good. Of course, that strong feeling can be a delight in language.” . . . The Book Bench unearths a 1978 John Updike interview with a Croation periodical, which finds the Rabbit Angstrom author halfway through his tetralogy. . . . Edwin Frank of NYRB Classics talks to Omnivoracious, and selects his favorite books in the series (via). . . . And James Ellroy submits to interrogation at The Paris Review: “I was always thinking about how I would become a great novelist.”
It’s a source of hair-pulling anxiety for artists of all kinds: how can you hold down a day job yet commit yourself to your art? It’s undoubtedly possible, but it’s daunting enough that apprentice writers often need advice on how to do it. Herewith, six artists (including writers Catherine Lacey and Shane Jones) explain how they pull it off. Related: Cathy Day on making a living as a writer.
In case you missed it: Google bought Frommer’s last August. Then in April, Google announced that it would stop printing hard-copy guidebooks, so founder Arthur Frommer bought his company back. All of this has led Doug Mack to argue that not only do we need guidebooks, but they should be part of the literary canon. “They also stand out for shaping history, if not always intentionally, because of their authoritative reputation—they have long been the best insight into that which would be otherwise unknown.”
Comics fans will know that a new Marvel storyline may — just possibly — reunite Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. This has, understandably, produced a range of reactions, not least of which is this piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates, who argues that the two embody a healthy marriage. “[Their] marriage was a rejection of the macho ideal of romance—which reigns even among nerds—and it mirrored and confirmed my own budding sense of what love was at a very young age,” he writes. You could also read Paul Morton on the character of Peter Parker.
The Los Angeles Review of Books interviewed Xujun Eberlein, a “China-born and now Boston-based” short story writer, essayist and blogger about recent literary happenings in her native country. The first question they asked has to do with Finnegans Wake, which is selling surprisingly well in Chinese bookstores.