Joe Fassler interviews recent MacArthur Genius and Year-in-Reading alum Viet Thanh Nguyen on the myth of overnight success, balancing an academic career while still finding time to write novels and the sacrifices all writers must make. Over at Electric Literature.
“The voices you hear when you sit down to write lead you to believe that you’re a character in the novel you’re writing even though metafiction hasn’t been invented yet.” If this applies to you, you might be in a Muriel Spark novel according to Maud Newton’s article at The Toast. We aren’t surprised that Newton wrote this because Spark made her 2010 Year in Reading post.
Out this week: Lost for Words by Edward St. Aubyn; Another Great Day at Sea by Year in Reading alum Geoff Dyer; Funny Once by Antonya Nelson; Black Lake by Johanna Lane; Closed Doors by Lisa O’Donnell; Decompression by the German writer Juli Zeh; and J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf, published now for the first time. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great 2014 Book Preview.
Scientists confirmed recently that writers are more likely to struggle with mental illness (sometimes, as recently noted, due to syphilis). Since we’re so used to our alcoholic literary greats, and a smattering of suicidal ones (Plath, Woolf, Thompson, Wallace–and many more), this comes as no great surprise. On a happier note, a new study using fMRIs and MFA students has found that writers show different brain patterns than “normal people” just writing: in fact they resemble “expert” thinking patterns of all professionals doing what they’re best at–musicians, athletes, competitive Scrabble players. I don’t know if I’m happier to learn the fMRIs found no gaping black holes, or that MFAs do in fact teach you something.