Ling Ma’s 2018 novel, Severance, is popping up on everyone’s pandemic TBR pile, due to parallels between the fictitious “Shen Fever” and the current-day coronavirus. For the Ringer, Jane Hu looks at why this novel resonates so deeply with our contemporary situation. “While I do not begrudge anyone the catharsis of readerly projection—especially during these bizarre times—that doesn’t mean that ‘Severance: it’s just like us’ hot takes are missing the point,” Hu writes. “For as the pandemic precipitates spikes in xenophobic sentiments, any over-identification with Ma’s novel based primarily on its ethnic coordinates […] should give us pause. That its author, a Chinese American immigrant, has refrained from all media requests is perhaps telling.”
“Rather than outlining your plot in chronological order, try outlining your plot as if it were a candle burning at both ends. Begin the process by writing your first and last chapter simultaneously.” Amazon Author Insights gathers, well, insights on writing from Dan Brown and other famous crime and thriller novelists. (Full disclosure: Amazon helps us pay the bills around here!) We will also never not recommend this evergreen piece from our own archives, of writers on the best advice they ever received.
At The Chronicle of Higher Education, Rachel Toor channels George Orwell, immortal champion of good writing in English, to help young scholars avoid the ghastly prose style that dominates contemporary academic writing.
This week in book-related infographics, round 2: Lapham’s Quarterly takes a look at the day jobs of famous authors, among them T.S. Eliot, who was responsible for processing reports on German debt, and Charlotte Bronte, who had laundry fees deducted from her pay. Pair with our own Emily St. John Mandel‘s essay on “Working the Double Shift” and “all the strangely varied occupations that a person accumulates when the primary objective is not to establish a career, per se, but just to pay the rent while they’re working on a novel.”