Several recent high profile books, like Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries or Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, are hefty tomes. As it turns out, these outliers are part of a larger trend toward longer books. Jeremy Anderberg, writing at BookRiot, researched popular books over the last 110 years and found that page lengths are increasing—prize-winning books over the last forty years are almost twice the length of those from the turn of the century....more
Posts Tagged: novels
Do video games undermine empathy? Or are they just a comfortable scapegoat for a violent culture?
Scientists search for an evolutionary reason for art. Spoiler alert: The answer is men and sex....more
Can a good critic be a good novelist too? Daniel Mendelsohn and Leslie Jamison, who both have written both fiction and non-fiction, answer this question in the weekly Bookend column for the New York Times’s Sunday Review.
Though their ideas differ, the two authors ultimately share the same point of view, summed up in Jamison’s statement that, “We seem to have more patience for the novelist who writes criticism (Henry James, Virginia Woolf) than for the critic who writes novels (Susan Sontag, Lionel Trilling).”
It happens every now and then that we find someone toasting (or mourning) the death of the novel—this time, it’s Will Self’s turn.
“How do you think it feels to have dedicated your entire adult life to an art form only to see the bloody thing dying before your eyes?” At the Guardian, the British writer answers his own question with the transcript of his Richard Hillary Memorial Lecture....more
What’s the difference between an essay and a novel? Teju Cole considered that question in his 2012 essay, “The White Savior Industrial Complex,” writing that essays have points, while novels do not.
While Cole continues to stand by this essay, he admits that there are exceptions to this rule....more
Another testament to the tribulations of novel-making: over at the New Yorker, Akhil Sharma discusses the particular technical problems he faced while writing Family Life as well as how, exactly, he went about solving them.
The book took twelve and a half years of my life and I am not sure if it was the right investment of my time.
Despite the challenges writers face with debut novels, the second novel is generally considered the most difficult to write. Some second novels fail to exceed the first, and plenty of authors never even write a second novel. But we might be living in the golden age of sophomore novels, declares Bill Morris over at The Millions. He cites Rachel Kushner, Jonathan Miles, and Charles McNair as examples of successful second novelists, adding:
Of course one could argue that a half dozen books do not constitute a trend or herald a new golden age.
“I write because I’ve always wanted to know what bankruptcy feels like.”
John Winters gives his sobering reaction to the hotly debated “MFA vs. NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction,” in his essay, “Why I Write: 2014 Edition.” He details the emerging culture in burgeoning novelists produced by MFA programs, whether NYC is really the best place for a writer to be, and why he keeps writing despite the tough economic climate....more
It’s impossible to predict what will make a book sell well, but scientists at Stony Brook University think they might be on the right track.
After conducting statistical analyses of novels from several genres, they were able to predict with 84% accuracy whether a book was “highly successful” based on certain elements of style such as “discourse connectives” and “verbs that describe thought-processing.”
Of course, there’s a pretty large degree of subjectivity inherent in any study of this nature, but it’s still interesting stuff to think about....more
“Are you absolutely, positively, and wholeheartedly ready to publish your novel?”
It’ll help you figure out whether to dedicate your book to “that barista with the really cool forearm tattoo” and whether Kinko’s employees are trustworthy literary critics....more
“I do not believe that apparent authoritative literary voices of validation would ever make such a grand claim about a novel written by a woman. I say this because I believe there are many novels by women that are about the same sort of world as presented in Freedom. Sadly, the culture usually calls these books domestic or family sagas. Are the novels of Anne Tyler, Marilynne Robinson and Mona Simpson any less white and middle “American” than Franzen”...more
“FoundSF is a wiki that invites history buffs, community leaders, and San Francisco citizens of all kinds to share their unique stories, images, and videos from past and present. There are over 1,800 articles here presenting primary sources, essays, and images from history....more
“A year earlier, I’d celebrated my birthday with an all-night bash. The writing was going well, I went out dancing every night. Now I stared into snowy gloom and wondered what I’d been thinking.”...more
First it was Infinite Jest and now readers will be tackling the world’s oldest novel this summer, Tale Of Genji.
I want someone to have a summer of The Recognitions next. Or Don Quixote or Crime And Punishment.
Or maybe a reading group can convince me to keep reading Women And Men by Joseph McElroy....more
A review of David Goodwillie’s American Subversive that veers off into some really important and complicated and basically unanswerable questions about literature, literary reviews, overstimulation, secret weapons, and 21st century life....more
“Fantasy is not avoidable. The very act of writing fiction is a sin, a lie. One of Disch’s most haunting stories, ‘Getting Into Death,’ is about a writer (one who uses two pseudonyms, at least one of which Disch used himself) who orchestrates her death by fabricating warmth and sentiment toward everyone she has ever known, creating a surfeit of charmingly mawkish moments....more
There is nothing quite like reading Little, Big, John Crowley’s epic and elegantly subtle fantasy novel about a New England family and their mystifying relationship with the Fairy World.
In language and style and vision, in action that veers from the curiously fantastic to the magically mundane, this book is unlike anything I’ve ever read, and something I’ll reread at least a dozen times more....more
“What are the consequences for literature? From the moment an author perceives his ultimate audience as international rather than national, the nature of his writing is bound to change. In particular one notes a tendency to remove obstacles to international comprehension....more
If you have any doubts about the power of the novel, or its lasting cultural significance, or its transcendent ability to deepen and enrich our chaotic earthly experiences, look no further than this impassioned conversation at The Believer between two of our most exciting novelists, Colum McCann and Alexander Hemon....more
I don’t know about you but this is the year I finish that @#$#@%! novel.
I got two hundred pages of rough stuff. Real rough stuff.
The first novel. The one I’m allowed to be cavalier about, right?
The one people will say, provided it ever gets published: oh that was just his first novel....more
One of the biggest selling, most highly-praised novels at my bookstore right now is The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.
Since it just came out in paperback, we’ve been selling like six of them a week. Based on reading the book’s blurbs and hearing about it from customers and coworkers, it appears that The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, although ostensibly a thriller and a mystery, is also one of those rare, genre-defying gems that makes it confusing to know where to shelve it: mystery or literature?...more