Anyone who believes that you can make art from language is part of a small, nearly-vanishing community, and we should all form a wedge and march on the enemy. Do we need different uniforms in this struggle, different stripes on our arms so that it’s clear who the realists are? Maybe, but I care less and less.
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"I will tell them one of the greatest, perhaps the greatest story of all — the story of good and evil, of strength and weakness, of love and hate, of beauty and ugliness. I shall try to demonstrate to them how these doubles are inseparable — how neither can exist without the other and how out of their groupings creativeness is born." John Steinbeck, American literary titan and author of The Grapes of Wrath, certainly knew a thing or two about creativity.
We're pleased to announce a new feature here on The Millions, "Ask the Writing Teacher." Our own Edan Lepucki will now be taking your questions about all things writing related, dialogue, plot, point of view, or other elements of writing that might be putting a pickle in your prose. Send your questions her way at askthewritingteacher[at]gmail[dot]com
Months before Ian McEwan's Atonement was published in the U.S., the galley was being passed from bookseller to bookseller at Book Soup, where I worked at the time. My usually jaded coworkers were effusive, and by the time they had passed the book on to me, my interest was piqued. Atonement introduced me to McEwan, one of the leading literary lights of the last 25 years, a prolific and sometimes controversial novelist. It proved to be quite an introduction. Atonement is told in three parts, nestling the mannered charms of an English country house up against an arresting tale of Britain at war, and it has an ending that turns an admittedly accomplished but conventional novel into a gut-punch of a book that toys with the idea of the reliable narrator and gets one thinking about the ethics of story-telling and the power that a writer has to bend history to his will. McEwan was a Booker winner in 1998 for Amsterdam, but it was Atonement that cemented him as that rare thing, the literary superstar. Read an Excerpt from Atonement. More Best Fiction of the Millennium (So Far) Best of the Millennium, Pros Versus Readers
Jay Rubin, best known as Haruki Murakami’s longtime English translator, is also a novelist in his own right. Last month, he published his debut The Sun Gods, about a Japanese-American couple who meet each other on the eve of World War II. In an interview with The Rumpus, he talks about Murakami, his new book and his interest in Japanese literature. You could also read Ben Dooley on Japanese cell phone novels.
In the new Granta, Adam Johnson writes about the mind-bending experience of traveling to North Korea, an experience which informed his Pulitzer-winning novel The Orphan Master’s Son. Perhaps the saddest anecdote -- and there are a lot of sad anecdotes -- is the one about the North Korean tour guide who couldn’t believe the author didn’t want to buy knockoff goods.