At the virtual Charleston to Charleston Literary Festival, Trick Mirror author Jia Tolentino interviewed Jenny Offill about research, writing, climate change, and her latest novel, Weather. The conversation is thrilling, in part because they pause to celebrate the just-announced election results, but also because the two writers and their sense of curiosity are so well matched. On the topic of incorporating facts into her fiction, Offill said, “The reason I put so many facts that are interesting to me in books is because I don’t actually remember things unless I write them down and try to put them in my own words. If I don’t want to forget that antelopes have 10x vision and can see the rings of Saturn, I think, okay, I’m going to find a place for this.” She also explained that writing about climate change helped ease her anxiety, at least momentarily: “Because I was writing and because I was thinking these things through, I actually became less doom-laden; I think I had a place to put it, I didn’t necessarily need to be the Ancient Mariner telling people my story in the streets. I would talk the most when I was not writing.”
Granta has published translated writing from Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich. She writes: “In 1986 I had decided not to write about war again. For a long time after I finished my book War’s Unwomanly Face I couldn’t bear to see a child with a bleeding nose. I suppose each of us has a measure of protection against pain; mine had been exhausted. Two events changed my mind.” Find out more about Alexievich here.
Before his death of natural causes in 2008, Henry Gustave Molaison had the world’s most famous brain. At 27, Molaison permanently lost the ability to form new memories, which led to him spending the rest of his life in “thirty-second loops of awareness.” In the LRB, Mike Jay reviews a new book on Molaison, Permanent Present Tense.
What if the zodiac was based not on your birthday but on your favorite book in high school? If it were, and if your favorite book happened to be Lord of the Flies, we could guess that you are currently “researching masters programs and preparing for your fourth Burning Man.”
“And so despite my esteem for the high challenge of writing, for the reach of the writerly life, it’s not something anyone actually wants me to do. The American mind has made that very clear, it has said: ‘Be a specialised something — fill your head with the zeitgeist, with the technical — and we’ll write your ticket.’”
Late November brings work of another favorite Madrileño to the forefront. The final book of Javier Marías‘s Your Face Tomorrow trilogy, Poison, Shadow, and Farewell, will be published at the end of the month by New Directions. The incomparable Marias will make two New York appearances, a reading at the 92nd St Y (with Paul Auster) and a conversation with Paul Holdengräber at the New York Public Library.