Posts Tagged: salon

Not That Kind of Narrator

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The problem with unreliable narrators — and the thing that makes them so delightful to read in fiction — is that by design, you never quite know when they are telling the truth. Which makes it a stunningly poor choice of conventions to employ when writing about sexual assault, a crime that victims are often accused of fabricating, either wholesale or in parts.

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Gotta Serve Somebody

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In an excerpt from his recently released book Rocket and Lightship: Essays on Literature and Ideas, Adam Kirsch positions David Foster Wallace as a quintessentially American writer: self-conscious and ironic, but at the same time frenzied, earnest, and above all contradictory:

A clue to the answer can be found in a question Wallace asked in “Infinite Jest:” “Why is the truth usually not just un- but anti-interesting?” In that excessively interesting book, the interesting is always suspect.

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Seriously, Though

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At Salon, Lydia Millet gets serious about sexism, climate change and extinction, and the literary establishment’s dismissal of funny books:

“Important” serious books often seem to be picked based on the simplicity and safety of their content as a barometer of upper-middle-class cultural preoccupation, and humor’s too complex and ambiguous to be a flagship like that.

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Indie Bookstore Road Trip

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Independent bookstores will save the world, or at least the publishing industry, maybe. Josh Weil and Mike Harvkey took a road trip across the country, exploring independent bookstores. They found a collection of dedicated shops and local literary communities, but that didn’t answer the fundamental question: how important are independent bookstores are to writers?

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Rewriting History

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Salon has published an excerpt from Edward E. Baptist’s new book about the relationship between slavery and the development of capitalism in America. In it, he identifies the ways in which the American master narrative has written slavery out of our nation’s history and denied the system of mass murder and suffering on whose back the land of the free was conceived:

It would have to avoid the old platitudes, such as the easy temptation to tell the story as a collection of topics—here a chapter on slave resistance, there one on women and slavery, and so on.

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Road Tripping for Inspiration

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“We’re doing this because we’re buds and we’re starting new books. We’ve always talked our ideas through with each other; it’s always helped. Through these conversations, we’ve grown as writers together.”

Josh Weil and Mike Harvkey have been longtime friends. Now, both with new novels on the way, they have embarked on a five day trip through America to talk about their writing.

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Out of the Binders and Into the Refrigerators

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The success of The Magicians trilogy stems in part from its self-awareness. Lev Grossman wields his familiarity with fantasy genre fiction to critique and alter the usual formula. So why do his female characters all serve the same purpose?

…he’d almost certainly be familiar with the infamous tradition of “Women in Refrigerators,” coined by comic fan Gail Simone in 1999: It means, basically, that female characters are often killed off or otherwise grotesquely traumatized (raped, tortured, paralyzed, stripped of superpowers, etc.) to motivate angst on the part of male leads.

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An End to Bookends

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At Salon, Molly Fischer criticizes the New York Times’s “Bookends” column, going so far as to suggest that the it be eliminated for good. She compares the question-and-answer formats — and the content of the prompts — as reminiscent of  high school English classes:

It’s not just the stiff phrasing (“What should we make of this?” “What’s behind the notion?”) that gives Bookends its blue-books-and-binder-paper feel.

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Don’t Throw the Clichés out with the Bath Water

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Most people think clichés aren’t worth a hill of beans, but over at Salon, Orin Hargraves says they just haven’t gotten a fair shake. Hargraves thinks clichés are just a red herring; if you want to make sure your writing really is one-of-a-kind, he has this advice:

The best way to free your speech and writing of unneeded and detrimental clichés is to construct it thoughtfully, paying close attention to the common tendency to insert a ready form of words in a place where it easily fits.

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Party of One

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Social media is a cruel machine, propelled by our desire to keep up appearances and affirmed by a strange, voyeuristic capital of likes and favorites. While Facebook can at times feel like a digital cocktail party devoid of any significant personal connection, Julia Fierro, author of Cutting Teeth, makes a case for its value to those who struggle with anxiety and loneliness:

It is socializing on my own terms.

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