At the Paris Review, author Rumaan Alam discusses his suspenseful new book, Leave the World Behind, and the efficiency of genre writing. “I think there is a prevailing snobbery about writing horror or thriller, ‘genre fiction,’ that it’s fundamentally less serious. I don’t think that’s true. Because, in the end, it’s really about building a very efficient machine in order to achieve a very specific goal,” he says. “The author wants to make you quake. He wants to make you shiver. He wants to terrify you. Literary fiction is a genre all its own, with its own expectations and conventions, and the aim is less often to elicit that emotional response. It’s more often about doing something compelling on the level of language or style—it’s a different kind of endeavor. But I don’t think that means one is better than the other.”
Now this is a headline for the ages: “‘Self-Harmers are Not Just Depressives’: Writing a Book About Cutters Who Cook.” (Incidentally, the book in question is Jessica Soffer’s Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots, which we covered last week.)
Over at The Paris Review, Wei Tchou travels to Flannery O’Connor’s farm in Georgia. As she writes, “The charm of Andalusia lies in gestures like this, the ones that urge you into feeling as though you belong. The place isn’t a fossil, it’s a home.” Pair with Nick Rapatrazone’s Millions essay on teaching and learning from “the greatest American writer ever to load up a typewriter.”
New this week: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng; Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok; The Appetites of Girls by Pamela Moses; Shrink Thyself by the Letterman staff writer Bill Scheft; The Last Taxi Ride by A.X. Ahmad; and the Cambridge University Press edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Taps at Reveille.
As John Steinbeck’s classic Travels With Charley nears the half-century mark, a writer has retraced the author’s cross-country journey and come to the conclusion that the resulting book was full of inaccuracies and outright fabrications. The journalist Bill Steigerwald, whose article appears in the current issue of the libertarian quarterly Reason, says he didn’t set out to trash the Nobel laureate. “As a libertarian, I kind of liked the old guy,” Steigerwald tells the New York Times. “He liked guns; he liked property rights.”