But if a novel starts well and descends into trash, then it seems to me that it’s worth continuing to see if it gets better, or to see where the writer went wrong. And if it was bad from page one, then the whole “should I drop it?” issue is secondary.
Posts Tagged: The Atlantic
2014 may not have been an especially good year for female writers in general, but it apparently saw a rise in prizes and accolades for women writing science fiction. Unfortunately, this is but a small step forward toward gender equality within the genre....more
Nothing much more needs to be said: At the Atlantic, “the author of White Noise reviews Taylor Swift’s white noise.”...more
At the Atlantic, David Mitchell discusses his new novel, the poem he keeps above his desk, and how to write. He explains that his work involves writing about distance and time, and that requires figuring out how one culture differs from another:
Much of my work involves writing about scenes set far in the future or deep in the past.
After publishing a collection of short stories earlier this year, B.J. Novak has just released his first book for children, Book With No Pictures. The title is pretty self-explanatory—as an interview with Novak in the Atlantic puts it, instead of traditional pictures,
…words form statements like, “My only friend in the whole wide world is a hippo named Boo-Boo Butt.” The joke is that the grown-up has to say every outrageous thing on the page, which makes the kid feel like an evil genius.
(n.); an unwell feeling, particularly in the head; a moody depression; c. 1918, from Nevil Shute’s The Rose and the Rainbow
The archetype of the mad genius dates back to at least classical times, when Aristotle noted, “Those who have been eminent in philosophy, politics, poetry, and the arts have all had tendencies toward melancholia.”
—“Secrets of the Creative Brain,” Nancy C.
Fourteen years after it’s publication, Stephen King’s On Writing has become a necessary read for anyone interested in prose-burnishing. Follow this string of red letters for a new interview with King on his book with The Atlantic’s Jessica Lahey.
Jessica Lahey: In On Writing, you identified some phrases that should be excised from every writer’s toolbox: “At this point in time” and “at the end of the day.” Any new irksome phrases you’d be willing to share?
The publishing world has been rocked by numerous high-profile scandals in recent years. James Frey’s memoir turned out to be more of a novel, for instance. Yet despite these mistakes, book publishers are still allowing facts to go unchecked leaving open a major source of potential misinformation, reports The Atlantic:
And reliance on books creates a weak link in the chain of media accuracy, says Scott Rosenberg, founder of the now defunct MediaBugs.org.
Following her essay about the influence of Adam Smith’s economic theories in Jane Austen’s novels, writing at The Atlantic, Shannon Chamberlain gets back to the topic, this time debating what influence fiction had, and in particular the emerging genre of the novel, in Smith’s production:
“Perhaps this sense of turmoil, of progress that could still be undone, explains Smith’s apparent ambiguity about novels.
Paul Moran began collecting John Updike’s trash in 2006, three years before the writer’s death. He found discarded photos, story drafts, and honorary degrees. The acquisition of curbside trash seems perfectly legal in Massachusetts, even if Updike and his wife took measures to dissuade Moran’s efforts....more
Memoirist (and former editor-at-large of McSweeney’s) Sean Wilsey talks to The Atlantic about his essay collection, More Curious, and why humor writing resonates:
I think there’s something dishonest about writing that isn’t funny. I can’t engage with a piece of work without an element of humor to it.
Two art professors at Eastern Michigan University are exploring what a book is and what it will be in the future in their Open Book Project, which has thus far involved an exhibition, a 248-page book, and workshops where artists imagine the forms books of the future could take....more
While readers today might think of Jane Austen novels as the equivalent of 18th century bodice rippers, money, wealth, and economics played a major role both in their creation and in their narrative. Austen wrote as much for financial benefit as for art....more
For the Atlantic, Shawn Miller argues that what we decide to erase, through our technology, is often more enlightening that what is kept. Drawing an analogy between Middle Age palimpsests and a 19th-century Italian priest, Angelo Mai, who dedicated his life to finding what past monks had scraped off parchment and written over, Miller wonders what deleted information of ours historians will be interested in examining in the future:
So, the questions we should ask ourselves today: What information are we devaluing now?
Political fiction can come across as heavy-handed, but avoiding all politics in writing may overlook the fact that people lead political lives. Over at the Atlantic, author Molly Antopol talks about how reading the fiction of Grace Paley taught her to write about political characters without sounding preachy—as she puts it, political fiction without a capital P:
When political fiction fails, it can be because it manifests a kind of moral certitude, an assured sense that one worldview is better or truer than another.
The 50th anniversary edition of Lunch Poems, the collection written by Frank O’Hara in 1964, has caught attention recently over at The Atlantic. The book has always been important to New Yorkers, and evidently it still is—in 2012, it was voted into the top ten list of objects that best tell New York’s story (it came in at #6)....more
Memorial Day is a time of both national reflection and diverse local tradition. In a piece connecting poetry and community storytelling, The Atlantic offers some literary history in observance of this past weekend’s holiday. Two years after the end of the Civil War, the magazine published Francis Miles Finch’s conciliatory poem, ”The Blue and The Gray.” Finch, a northerner, was inspired to write the piece by four women in Columbus, Mississippi, who decorated the graves of deceased Confederates and Union soldiers alike in a gesture of nonpartisan respect. Today, students in Columbus honor the event by retelling the life stories of those buried in that cemetery....more
Love libraries? So do we. Know someone who thinks physical libraries will eventually disappear? Have them watch this mini-documentary, Why Libraries Matter, over at the Atlantic. A look at a day in the life of New York City’s public libraries reveals the many reasons people use libraries and why we shouldn’t let them disappear....more
We linked to an Atlantic article in January about the recent decline in readers in America. According to the article, 23 percent of Americans went without reading a single novel in 2013.
Now, Time has a summary of a recent study of reading’s effects on the brain. As expected, the activity roughly a quarter of Americans forwent last year is statistically correlated with cultivating social awareness, creativity, and empathy; in other words, pretty good things....more
Happy endings are hard to come by in great literature, especially in stories that center on affluent American suburbs and their inhabitants. Over at the Atlantic, writer Ted Thompson looks at the hopeful and redemptive (but still believable) dramatic climax of John Cheever’s “The Housebreaker of Shady Hill”:
This is one of the things that’s so apparent when you’re reading Cheever: his openness to redemptive beauty.
We live in a heyday of punctuation. “Call this what you will—exclamatory excess, punctuation inflation, the result of the Internet’s limitless expanse—it is everywhere,” writes Megan Garber at the Atlantic. But perhaps not for long—with the rise of image-based expression like emoji and gifs, we are finding new ways to express ourselves, and we’re leaving exclamation points and question marks out of it....more