Graceland versus Rowan Oak.
I read Alex Shakar‘s debut novel, The Savage Girl, in 2003, but I have no strong memories of it. (I had to consult I note I scribbled in an endpaper to remember when I read it.) Regardless, he spins a great yarn about how the best-laid promotional plans for the novel collapsed.
Edwidge Danticat on editing the story collection Haiti Noir: “We don’t always have to create pretty pictures around Haiti, but we are obligated to reflect or create fully realized human beings and that’s what our seventeen fiction writers did. I am really proud of that book. It’s not a rosy picture of Haiti, but it is nuanced and complex one. We are neither angels nor savages. Maybe that’s what fiction does best, define that middle ground.”
“While a full account of the role God plays in [David Foster] Wallace’s writing would probably take a monograph to flesh out, I’d like to point to a few moments in his work that one should pursue if one were to write that monograph.” (Chapter 22 of The Pale King welling up again; seriously, it should be sold as a Byliner-ish excerpt, or novella, or some other standalone publication.)
Jim Shepard talks up some of his favorite short-story collections, and his own work: “[W]riting about other things, if you’re doing so in the right way, is a great way of tricking yourself into writing about stuff you most care about. It can be a back door into difficult emotions. Especially if you’re a guy, you might have difficulty dealing with particularly vexed emotions to begin with. And particularly vexed emotions are the sort that power literature.” (via)
Harvard University Press has freed up the Ernest Hemingway chapter from A New Literary History of America, which discusses the influence of a family cabin in Michigan on his work.
Mad Men, John Updike‘s Maple stories, same diff.
Reader’s Almanac, the Library of America’s blog, recently turned a year old; it tallies up some of its most popular posts.
J.D. Salinger, 1994: “I work on. Same old hours, pretty much.”
Roger Ebert is in a huff about an ESL version of The Great Gatsby; Jessa Crispin doesn’t see what the fuss is about.
Dinaw Mengestu goes to the Greek isle of Patmos and finds a waystation for migrants.
On Louisa May Alcott‘s brief stint as a Civil War nurse.
How Vladimir Nabokov stage-managed his interviews.
In defense of Jonathan Franzen‘s underappreciated second novel, Strong Motion.
“[Larry McMurtry] described The Last Picture Show as a ‘spiteful’ book that took three weeks to write and was intended to ‘lance some of the poisons of small-town life.'”
Arthur Phillips on Moby-Dick: “When we…went out to sea, it was something in between a realistic sea adventure and some other dreamlike lunacy – then I felt like I was in the hands of somebody who was inventing the novel as he wrote one. That same wonderful feeling. This is not exactly a sea adventure or a sea melodrama with an evil captain. There’s something much weirder going on.” (Nathaniel Philbrick‘s forthcoming Why Read Moby-Dick? has some thoughtful observations on these points, about which more soon, probably.)
Some elements by which to judge the success of an expat novel.
Legislators are trying to make a Mark Twain commemorative coin happen. No word on whether it’ll be embossed with the phrase, “Within certain judicious limitations we trust in God.”