This week in the New Yorker Jane Hu analyzes the “dispassionate first-person narrators” prominent in works by English-speaking Asian authors and questions whether that makes it easier to identify with the narrator. She uses Chemistry by NBA 5 under 35 honoree Weike Wang as an example along with other recent works. “Against this tradition, there is, perhaps, another emerging, of Asian-Anglophone writers who both play with and thus begin to undo these tropes of Asian impersonality. The novels by Ishiguro, Park, Lin, and Wang all feature first-person narrators who keep their distance—actively denying readers direct interior access. This is true, it’s important to note, even when the characters they write are not themselves Asian.”
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.”
You’ve probably heard it before: never end a story with the phrase “it was all a dream.” Unfortunately for the person who taught you this rule, many classic stories (including Anna Karenina) take place at least partially in dreams. In the NYRB, Francine Prose investigates the trope in fiction.
Head over to The Literary Hub and take a look at this excerpt from Svetlana Alexievich’s newest book, Second-Hand Time, which has been called a “history of emotions” chronicling the demise of Soviet communism. While you’re at it, take a look at this Millions profile/interview with Alexievich from earlier this summer.