For The Millions, Philip Hopkins shares what he learned after attempting to co-author a book with a computer program. Through the experience, Hopkins ultimately concludes that “the gap between simple self-awareness and the literary intelligence necessary to compose a worthwhile novel will always be vast.”...more
Posts Tagged: The Millions
If anything, the private spaces of the Monterey Bay Aquarium are even more magical that the public ones. The exact same aesthetic sensibility that pervades the viewing galleries—clean, calm, scientifically sound, technologically advanced—also characterizes the service corridors, which is nice because it appeals to my sense of symmetry.
For The Millions, Mike Broida revisits David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, arguing that the work’s claims about addiction and the media presaged the influence of “television culture” on the digital age:
The final “joke” of Infinite Jest is that the book is intended to be almost as endless and mirthful as the addictions it depicts.
We burn old love letters and photographs to be reborn. The action of burning is often a process. Find a match or a lighter. Put the papers in a container or can or shove them in a fireplace. There are so many moments along the way when we can have second thoughts, when we can decide to put memories in a drawer rather than reduce them to ash, but it is so tempting and comforting to watch the flames swallow our pain.
At The Millions, Jonathan Gottschall compares his experience learning to cage fight with the struggles of being a writer, as “the writing game, like the fighting game, mostly ends in breakage”:
Literary history is a history of victors. So stories about the struggles of well-known writers almost always follow the comforting arc of suffering redeemed.
For The Millions, Marcia DeSanctis shares how she learned to become a “second-career writer” after resisting her literary ambitions while working as a television news producer:
A stifled artist was scratching through all of my work identities, and though my jobs were fascinating I never really had the mettle to soldier on.
Despite its uncanny salience in the context of this most recent wave of social injustice and protest, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout was written well before the #BlackLivesMatter movement began. Far from a coincidence, the book’s resonance is a product of the same paradox of time it describes, in which dated social conditions cannot possibly continue to exist, yet do:
All of the characters, regardless of how completely absurd they seem, are reacting to living in a time in which Beatty also resides; one in which he is daring to call something “‘Racism’ in a post-racial world.”
Yesterday, The Millions featured an exclusive “essay” from a certain Republican presidential hopeful about his plan to make Western literature great again:
We’re going to take back the Western canon, folks. We are going to build a big beautiful wall around books written by white people and we’re going to make the immigrants and the African-American writers pay for it.
We finally had The Discussion after watching a documentary about Robert McNamara, who, like all Secretaries of State before and after, failed to see the wisdom in preparing for the fall. There were three issues: what I wanted, what she wanted, what we wanted.
All these flavors, and Kaulie Lewis chooses to be salty. At The Millions, she gives us an ode to literary jealousy—the regret that one will never be able to claim credit for the great books that have already been written:
Truthfully, I’m jealous of most literary essayists, especially those who write about their homes or homely yearnings.
At The Millions, Connor Ferguson muses on writing routines, the tortured artist trope, and the role discomfort plays in the create process:
Even if they aren’t trying to be explicitly didactic, most writers feel compelled to create stories, novels, plays, and essays as a way to address discord or imbalance that they perceive in the world.
If Flaubert was ‘a man of the quill,’ then perhaps I am ‘a woman of the ear.’ My interviews aren’t interviews as such. Just talks. We just talk and my role is to listen. Listening was difficult at first because of the cognitive dissonance I experienced.
An essay by Daniel Harris in the most recent issue of The Antioch Review has sparked a backlash from the transgender community, with many members of the trans community feeling Harris missed the point completely, and worse—wishes they would just accept themselves as they are, in their “true” gender....more
At The Millions, Madeleine Monson-Rosen explores how the “lexicon of horror” influences novelist Victor LaValle’s thinking about “narrative and language.” In addition, the article discusses how LaValle’s most recent work, The Ballad of Black Tom, draws from H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Horror of Red Hook” for inspiration....more
For The Millions, David Busis chats with Curtis Sittenfeld about her recent release Eligible, a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. In the interview, Sittenfeld discusses the challenges that come up when modernizing older works, and how reality television served as a useful tool in her novel....more
Clichés are tempting because they do the work of communicating for us. In a manifesto against workshop jargon, Helen Betya Rubinstein warns us of the dangers of sticking to old models:
…because you’d have to remember all the way back to the first time you heard this cliché against clichés to actually see, once again, that clichés are ineffective because they prevent you from seeing.
For The Millions, Claire Cameron compares book covers from the United States and United Kingdom in an attempt to develop an “overarching theory” and explain how cultures “divide.”...more
For The Millions, Antonio Ruiz-Camacho interviews novelist Karan Mahajan about the origins of his recently released novel The Association of Small Bombs. The two also discuss how moving from New Delhi to America shaped Mahajan’s writing:
It gave me a sense of freedom in my writing.
For the New York Times, Lydia Kiesling reflects on Sara Majka’s debut collection, Cities I’ve Never Lived In:
I assumed right away that I knew exactly what kind of book this would be: a book about arty people with complicated personal lives, who use the word “lover” and contemplate wintry landscapes from lonely trains… But Majka brings the reader to startling places.
For The Millions, Edan Lepucki interviews novelist Dana Spiotta about her latest release Innocents and Others. In addition to exploring the process that went into writing the novel, the two discuss how to construct narrative by trusting instinct and intuition:
It has a lot to do with intuition, and what you find interesting as you are writing, I think.
For The Millions, editor Gerald Howard reflects on his search for manuscripts that “wow.” In addition, Howard explains how books like Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain helped to cultivate his interest in publishing, and explores how the subject matter of literature has changed over time:
We’ve traveled a long, long way from the storied four-decade publishing association of Alfred Knopf with Thomas Mann, nostalgia for which is a fairly useless emotion in our Godzilla vs.
…like Franzen’s novels, the Berenstain Bear books might meander, reveling in details alternately informative and irrelevant, but ultimately they’re straightforward tales about family. (Also, as a friend pointed out to me recently, JFran sort of looks like a Berenstain Bear. This can’t be coincidental.)
For The Millions, Austin Ratner documents the relationship between the “forgotten” Irish writer James Stephens and the famed James Joyce. Despite starting as literary rivals, Joyce wanted Stephens to finish Finnegans Wake if he ever lost his eyesight. In addition, the essay examines Stephens’s influence on other well-known Irish writers, including Seán O’Casey and Eugene O’Neill....more
For The Millions, Hannah Gersen recalls past attempts to read Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, and explains why she came up short. The essay also serves as an announcement for a new series, in which Gersen will once again attempt to tackle Proust and write monthly posts about her impressions....more
For The Millions, Kate McCahill reflects on illiteracy in the modern world and checks her privilege for growing up “book-rich”:
Books, I realized sharply, suddenly, are too expensive. They’re a luxury item, designated for the rich, for the privileged. Guiltily, I remembered the crammed shelves of my childhood.
Why stuff your body with Thanksgiving leftovers when you could be stuffing your bag with used books?
It was another reminder that I will surely die before I read all of my books, that my descendants will one day be forced to shovel through it all, skeptically asking one another, “Did he actually read all these?”
(On second thought, go ahead and finish those sweet potatoes.)...more
Over at The Millions, Nick Ripatrazone asked some authors, including William Giraldi and Christa Parravani, which were the books that defined their childhoods and, subsequently, their writing imaginations....more