“Most of all, they don’t tell you that fear, to reverse a phrase from C. S. Lewis, will feel so like grief, and so you begin to mourn what you have not yet lost, because mourning prematurely is the only way to protect yourself from hope.” For Catapult, Laura Turner writes about her trio of miscarriages and the hope she lost (and found) along the way. (Turner is a 2017 Year in Reading alum).
In the world of selling books, it’s not all about the sentences. At Ploughshares, agent Eric Nelson argues: A fresh plot matters and unusual characters do, too. “The most interesting books have characters who do the opposite of what we’d do… Imagine Hamlet, if Hamlet took decisive action. Horror movies wouldn’t exist at all without the idiot who always suggests they split up.”
Has the drudgery of submitting poems, stories, and manuscripts ever gotten you down? Marlon James, author of the Booker Prize winner A Brief History of Seven Killings, had his first novel rejected by nearly eighty publishing houses. Here’s a take on self-publishing from The Millions if all of this has got you down.
Literary Disco, a podcast hosted by Julia Pistell, Tod Goldberg, and Rider Strong (yeah! Sean from Boy Meets World!) is just great. In the most recent installment the hosts revisit their bookshelves and describe their new findings from rereading some faves, including Strong’s overwhelming reaction to T.C. Boyle‘s author photo.
Jack Gilbert died yesterday at the age of 87. Gilbert was the author of five standalone poetry collections—as well as additional collected volumes such as last March’s Collected Poems—and he was also a past winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award. For The LA Times, John Penner reviews the poet’s legacy. Or, perhaps as fitting tribute to Gilbert’s life and work, better to hear his own final lines to the poem “Failing and Flying”: “I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell, / but just coming to the end of his triumph.”
You may have heard that our own Bill Morris has a new book on shelves. He talked about it with fellow Millions staff writer and California author Edan Lepucki. At the LARB, Diana Clarke reviews the book, which she calls “a sharp critique of the contemporary American post-racial narrative,” among other things.
“Not infrequently I unravelled what I had done, continuously tormented by scruples that were taking tighter hold and steadily paralysing me. These scruples concerned not only the subject of my narrative, which I felt I could not do justice to, no matter what approach I tried, but also the entire questionable business of writing.” On W.G Sebald and unsatisfactory communication from The Nation.