The Center for Fiction has announced the finalists for its first novel prize: Philipp Meyer‘s American Rust, Patrick Somerville‘s The Cradle, Paul Harding‘s Tinkers, Yiyun Li‘s The Vagrants, and John Pipkin‘s Woodsburner. I can strongly endorse both The Vagrants and American Rust—more on the latter soon.
Daniel Menaker catalogs the various agonies of working in the publishing business today. “When you are trying to acquire books that hundreds of thousands of people will buy, read, and like, you have to have some of the eclectic and demotic taste of the reading public,” he writes, which rankles Michael Orthofer: “Why not give literary discernment a try?” he asks. I suspect the books reflecting literary discernment don’t get financed without the largesse that’s facilitated only when you luck out at making books that hundreds of thousands of people will buy, read, and like.
Case in point: MacAdam/Cage, a small press that prides itself on publishing fiction of literary discernment, is having financial troubles. Unfortunately, this means a delay for Jack Pendarvis’ upcoming novel, Shut Up, Ugly, but he’s taking it in stride.
On October 13 in New York, Don DeLillo, Paul Auster, and others will participate in a reading of documents relating to the torture of detainees.
In related DeLillo news, the new cover for the paperback edition of White Noise is both very attractive and uncannily appropriate—something about illustrator Michael Cho’s style slyly echoes the satirical, pop-culture-soaked tone of the novel.
Leonard Gardner recalls his work on Fat City, both the book and the film. Regarding the fact that he never wrote a second novel, he has a stock answer: “Sometimes you only get to win one championship.”
A reminder that John Steinbeck‘s The Grapes of Wrath wasn’t admired in all quarters when it was first published.
In 1908 when burglars broke into Mark Twain‘s home in Redding, Connecticut. Twain would quip shortly after the incident: “Now they (the burglars) are in jail, and if they keep on, they will go to Congress. When a person starts down hill, you can never tell where he is going to stop.”
And American Agriculturist would like to call bullshit on people who compare the works of Michael Pollan et al to Upton Sinclair‘s The Jungle.
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Another reason to not bother with literary discernment: read these 20 horrible sentences, and then come to the sobering realization that this hack is the biggest-selling author in the world: