Peter Matthiessen took the fiction prize at last night’s National Book Awards….
…at which Maxine Hong Kingston announced that she’s on page 173 of a poem.
College kids love Chuck Klosterman, would appreciate if he would stop chewing cough drops so they could hear him.
Ross Miller is nowhere near done with his biography of Philip Roth. But he knows his subject well: “Philip Roth probably knows as much about his own life as I do,” Miller said. “Possibly even less. He cannot remember what’s invention and what’s memory.”
I received a chastising e-mail the other day from Red Room, the Bay Area-based literary site that promises me that I’ll be able to connect, maybe, with my favorite authors. “Starting September 20th, 2008, real names and real photos will be required for all members,” the note says.
This is a tactic drawn straight from Facebook, which is stubborn about making sure users use their government names. That led me to hope that maybe the site was going to allow users and authors to interact somehow. But as in January, when Red Room pitched itself as a MySpace for writers, or in February, when the site’s minders made clear that Amy Tan gets her own page but you don’t, the joint is still flailing. True, users do now get their own pages. But Ellen Swain Veen, Red Room “featured member,” how shall I get in touch with you? You are working on a “crime novel, short plays, and a non-fiction book for law students,” which is interesting, and you have a lovely photo of a cat. May I friend you or somehow get an update when that crime novel’s wrapped up? No, but I can send you a message that requires me to jump through a CAPTCHA hoop.
But at least I can get a message to Veen. If I want to interact with a big-name author, like, say Maxine Hong Kingston, I have precisely zero options. She’s written one blog post, last December. I’m not mad—she’s been busy. But is there any way for me to find out if she’ll ever write a second?
Not that I can tell, after reading Red Room editor Huntington W. Sharp‘s article about the improvements to the site. Which are modest: Updates are included on one page, but it still keeps its Berlin Wall between authors and members. Silly.
Kevin J. Hayes is back with another question. Last time he was looking for tips on travel writers (glad I could be somewhat useful); this time he’s hunting for authors who’ve mastered multiple genres: “Take Henry James for instance,” he writes. “Best known as a novelist, James was also a fine travel writer and memoirist. I can justify discussing James in two or three different places, but I do not have room to discuss every genre of every author. So, here are my questions. Which American authors excelled in more than one literary genre? Where should I discuss them? Are they important enough to deserve discussion in more than one chapter? Boy, that’s a loaded question. Here’s a more fundamental one: what constitutes literary importance?”
Hell if I’m going to address that last question before breakfast. But a few names that immediately spring to mind: John Updike (see John Gross‘ excellent piece in the new NYRB on his most recent nonfiction collection); Mark Twain; Paul Theroux; Maxine Hong Kingston; Paul Auster (stretching here, but I do admire his memoir, Hand to Mouth). There has to be more. Maybe Walter Mosley gets credit for at least attempting his recent literary-erotic works?
How about Jack London, allegedly the most-read author in the world? Today marks the first day of the Geneva’s international book fair, and among the displays is Francis Lacassin’s 52-volume set of London’s works, translated into French.
An AP story explains just how lucrative the life of the much-hyped short story writer can be: According to the piece, Donald Ray Pollock‘s new collection, Knockemstiff, has sold all of 3,000 copies. It’s early yet, but that’s still short of the 27,000 hardbacks that were run off. So how do you avoid the remainder bin?