Links: Welcome! You’ve Got Weltschmerz!

Jonathan Franzen: “And AOL’s little box—the welcome screen, they call it, I guess—is so infuriating in its dopiness: ‘Surprising Leader In The Masters! Find Out Who!’ ‘Ten Things To Think About When Choosing A Hotel!’ ‘What Smart Travelers Know About X!’ It’s all in compact form, and it kind of tells me everything I need to know about the larger stupidity. It helps keep me in touch.”

Related: Lionel Shriver takes the Franzen hype as an opportunity to voice her righteous anger at the way her book covers favor girly imagery that’s out of touch with the book itself.

And related again: A few months back Shriver complained that Bret Easton Ellis‘ publisher spent too much money promoting his last novel. Ellis doesn’t disagree: “Lionel Shriver is correct in that regard. You can paint that black or find it interesting. The book business has become a bit of a dinosaur. But what is it transitioning into?

On what science fiction writers can learn from the recent spate of literary novels with science-fiction themes: “Reading through a stack of these recent literary books, you’re left with the feeling that…two themes — technological dislocation and imperial collapse — are resonating in the consciousness of the book-reading classes, and any author who manages to exploit these themes in an evocative way will make it big.”

How To Kill a Mockingbird inspired legal writer Dahlia Lithwick.

George Hitchcock, who published Raymond Carver‘s poetry in the literary journal kayak, died August 27.

The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings by James Baldwin is a bit scattershot, as the title suggests, but it has its share of provocative lines and it’s very much worth reading; the Library of America blog rounds up some of the coverage of the book.

Scott Timberg points to a couple of fine profiles he’s written on Daniel Alarcon and Yiyun Li.

Incoming college students rarely bother to read the book they’ve been assigned to read prior to their arrival on campus.

In fact, it seems like they’ll throw more energy into satirical news stories with headlines like, “Overzealous First-Year Reads Most of Summer Reading Assignment.”

5 thoughts on “Links: Welcome! You’ve Got Weltschmerz!

  1. Thanks for all those links, but that last one (from Brown U) is hysterically funny. Some college students at least must be reading something and paying attention to their academic surroundings to be able to write that well. Still, it does take some of the bloom off the rose of having one’s own novel chosen for a summer reading book (an experience I have just had). My book is being discussed this morning (I’m not there for it), but I picture hundreds of students cramming after midnight last night, looking for Spark notes and other summaries, which (too bad for them [now doesn’t that sound Shriver-ish?], they will not have found. Anyway, it’s not on the test, so . . .

  2. Good links. Re: the science fiction item. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, a first novel, which won the Nebula Award last spring, does just that and is one of the most important novels in the genre since William Gibson’s Neuromancer.
    Also, Rick Moody, who’s mentioned in the item, wrote a terrific novella a few years ago, “The Albertine Notebooks,” which is pure quill SF. Moody really knows how to use the tropes of SF.

    1. @Susan: I’d be curious to hear what those students say, or don’t say, about your book—at any rate, it’s pretty clear to me that if few read it, it wouldn’t be a judgment on the novel itself. (And I think more novelists could stand to be more Shriver-ish!)

      @Tom: Have you read “Four Fingers of Death” yet? I’m interested, but the reviews have been very mixed, which puts it a bit lower on the TBR stack.

  3. I haven’t read “Four Fingers of Death” yet — it’s quite long (over 700 pages), and I can’t find time for it. Perhaps this winter when work slows down.

  4. Thanks, Mark. I hope to some day find out as well. The program was that on Friday (first morning on campus), a psych/social work prof and an African-American Studies prof addressed the whole group about the novel. So it wasn’t a literary discussion but more about the cultural/historical context, I suppose. Then, they (500 students) broke down into small groups, each facilitated by a faculty member for further discussion. The idea is to work toward a more regional focus and get young minds thinking about Detroit and what happened there. If my book (read or un-read) plays any part in making that happen, I’d be satisfied. I’m going in November, during parents’ weekend to discuss the book with parents and students, so there’s more to come.

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