Roundup: Drives Like a Dream

You may have heard this week that luxury-car-maker Lexus has gotten into the business of publishing fiction—branded fiction about one of their new models, written by nine different authors. Jane Smiley and Curtis Sittenfeld are among the best-known novelists participating; I spoke with Richard McCann, the author of the second chapter of the novel, about his work on the project for Washington City Paper‘s blog, City Desk.

I’m with Keith Gessen, speaking about his own novel, All the Sad Young Literary Men, with the Oregonian: “Honestly? It’s a very flawed book in a lot of ways. It’s like half a novel. The impulse at the beginning was short stories, and the last half is more like a novel. As a novel, it has serious flaws, structural deformities that result from it taking so long to finish.”

The Wall Street Journal reviews Michael Zaid‘s The Secret of Fame, a book-length study of literary reputations. Here we learn that—surprise!—Philip Roth might be a shade neurotic about his reputation: ” On the jacket flaps of Philip Roth’s recent books we are told that, apart from winning the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, Mr. Roth has won an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters—the “Gold Medal in Fiction, previously awarded to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner and Saul Bellow, among others.” Mr. Roth wouldn’t have mentioned the award’s previous winners if he hadn’t been anxious about his status, aware that most literary prizes – unlike a businessman’s bank account – possess uncertain value.”

In the NYTBR NYRB Michael Dirda celebrates Peter Matthiessen‘s Shadow Country, a reworking of three of his previous linked Everglades-set novels into one volume:

From this spotty and sometimes contradictory historical record enhanced by contemporary rumors and the recollections of old-timers, Peter Matthiessen has fashioned a novel of Faulknerian power and darkness, one that embraces the American experience from the time of the Civil War to the first years of the Depression. Its themes are those that brand us as Americans to this day: the belief in self-transformation and renewal, the hunger for property and respectability, perfervid patriotism and xenophobia, the legacy of the Civil War, ongoing racial fears and anxieties, rampant greed, the rape of our wild places, psychological and physical violence in the family, the cowboy cult of manliness and swagger. And, not least, of course, our need for self-exculpation. The end justifies the means. It was him or me. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.