Links: Through the Cradle of the Civil War

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.”

Links: Installment Plan

In the Wall Street Journal, Lee Siegel argues that we are no longer living in an “episodic” era for fiction, stories more about events than transformations featuring Huck Finn and Augie March. We are now, somewhat unfortunately, living in the “narrative” era, where we crave closure and emotional growth in our characters. This is, of course, all 9/11’s fault. Arguments to contrary will abound, I’m sure—hasn’t popular fiction always been “narrative,” and aren’t most satirical fiction writers today (George Saunders, etc) dealing in “episodic” fiction, as comic writers always have? Somebody organize a conference!

Speaking of: The International Conference of Mark Twain Studies is going on now in Elmira, New York. According to the video, discussions of cats and studious beard grooming are on offer.

A lovely collection of Rockwell Kent‘s illustrations for Moby-Dick.

Constance Fenimore Woolson sold more books in her time than her would-be beloved, Henry James, but James got global fame and a bust in the National Portrait Gallery; Woolson gets a plaque on Mackinac Island.

The Bud Billikin parade is this weekend, which may mean nothing to anybody reading this outside of Chicago. But it’s a big deal there—a South Side to-do launched to get the kids excited to go back to school, and the brainchild of novelist Willard Motley, considered “the most prolific novelist associated with the concluding years of the Black Chicago Renaissance.”

Rick Moody listens to music while writing, but no lyrics please: “He has a fondness for ‘experimental or serious music that doesn’t have lyrics.’ For him, this includes music by La Monte Young, Morton Feldman, Meredith Monk, Steve Reich, Arthur Russell and Rhys Chatham.”

In addition to writing a new novel and a horror movie, Michael Cunningham is working on the screenplay to a Dusty Springfield biopic.

Larry McMurtry is pretty much done: “I’m about at the end of it. I can write certain things. I don’t think I can write fiction any more. I think I’ve used it up over 30 novels. That’s a lot of novels.”

Budd Schulberg—novelist (What Makes Sammy Run?), screenwriter (On the Waterfront), and Papa’s sparring partner—died this week at 95.

And PopMatters draws a few interesting connections between manga pioneer Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Raymond Carver.

Roundup: High Fuel Costs

Larry McMurtry is “outta gas” when it comes to writing fiction, he told a Dallas crowd last night during a conversation with Diana Ossana, his Brokeback Mountain screenwriting partner.

In the Rake, Max Ross takes the all-star break as an opportunity to note a couple of new baseball novels, and revisit a couple of familiar ones, including Philip Roth‘s exasperating The Great American Novel.

For the past two years Wayne State University has been amassing an sizable collection of rare books and manuscripts by black writers with some connection to Detroit. Among the holdings are works by Amiri Baraka, Donald Goines, W.E.B. DuBois, and more.

Ted Gioia has launched a new feature at Blogcritics Magazine called “The New Canon,” addressing the best works of fiction published since 1985. Not a bad way to start.

Secretary, Take an E-mail

Larry McMurtry answers questions from LA Observed about his work via e-mail—or, rather, he has somebody type out his spoken answers into an e-mail:

Q: You’ve written that the media supplies memories. Are you saying that one’s personal memory of something isn’t real unless it is broadcast on TV or the internet? Do you think that the mania for taking pictures with cellphones and standing in public talking loudly on the phone is a way to take our memories back – create our own – star in our own stories, as obnoxious as that is for people standing behind the person on the phone? What are the consequences of all of this when it comes to the written word?

A: What I meant by the media supplying memories is that we watch movies, or television, and those things become part of our memory bank. We’ll have to wait and see what consequences these things will bring. I don’t know. Maybe no consequences. Maybe these things will eliminate the written word, but it’s unlikely. I don’t use a computer, nor go near the internet. In fact, Diana Ossana, my writing partner, is typing my spoken responses to your questions into her computer.

I call shenanigans on his claim that Heaven’s Gate is now considered a masterpiece, but otherwise there’s smart stuff in the whole interview.

Cormac McCarthy has sold his archives, including the draft of an unfinished novel, to the Southwestern Writers Collection at Texas State University-San Marcos for $2 million. The SWC has an interesting assortment of arcana, as this CBC story notes in its last graf:

Also housed in the collection are the production archives of the Lonesome Dove miniseries and the animated TV show King of the Hill as well as the archives of writers such as Sam Shepard.

It’s also home to the Willie Nelson Collection.