Well, it’s been a while since we’ve had a blog update. Here’s what we’ve got for you today:
This article from New York magazine, ostensibly speculating on the real-life background of Jeffrey Eugenides’ new novel The Marriage Plot, offers a fascinating glimpse at a group of contemporary literary giants (Eugenides, David Foster Wallace, Mary Karr, Jonathan Franzen) and some of their reflections on Wallace’s mental illness and suicide.
That breakthrough novel [The Corrections] provoked a six-page letter in ten-point type from Wallace. He wrote of his mix of happiness for his friend and his feelings of envy and depression. Franzen says, “I think it hurt for each of us to get the latest [book] from the other.” Franzen became more secure in himself in the wake of The Corrections, Costello says. But Wallace? “Dave never had a secure hour in his life.”
Incidentally, I just finished The Marriage Plot and recommend it highly– if you have ever felt like maybe you read too much to function properly in social situations, this book is for you.
For adults, series like Twilight or Christopher Paolini’s Eragon books can be cringe-inducing in their awkward phrasing and derivative storylines, but the love kids and teenagers have for these novels has made them publishing sensations. Adam Gopnik examines these phenomenons at the New Yorker.
The enchantment the Eragon series projects is not that of a story well told but that of an alternative world fully entered. You sense that when you hear a twelve-year-old describe the books. The gratification comes from the kid’s ability to master the symbols and myths of the saga, as with those eighty-level video games, rather than from the simple absorption of narrative.
I have also, I admit, been reading the Twilight books, and while I won’t bother to recommend them or not, I will point out that the success of the books has spawned a somewhat embarrassing attempt by HarperCollins to boost sales of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights by repackaging it Twilight-style. I came across a copy at the store last week, check it out:
If you follow literary news, you’ve doubtless been awash in awards coverage for the past couple months. The big names have been making the rounds, but there’s still time in 2011 for one last award, my very favourite, The Guardian’s annual Bad Sex In Fiction Award! This year’s nominees include (click for hilariously NSFW excerpts):
- Haruki Murakami for IQ84
- Stephen King for 11.22.63
- Dori Ostermiller for Outside the Ordinary World
- James Frey for The Final Testament of the Holy Bible
- Jean M Auel for The Land of Painted Caves
… and more!
But maybe you read books to be classy and better yourself as a person, so if that is the case, here are 5 Political Novels Worth Reading, from The Huffington Post, a response to this article that suggests that in these troubled times, reading fiction might be somewhat self-indulgent. I have not read any of these novels, but in my defense, I haven’t read any of the ones on the bad sex list either.
Here are some excerpts from the latter article:
And that, in a way, is why I feel as if I should be reading it. It’s reasonable, as an adult, to decide you don’t want to read a book about the German economy, because you probably wouldn’t understand it, whereas it seems unreasonable to watch a crisis unfold before your eyes, and know so little about it. […]
“There is this false idea that fiction has no particular stance because it is made up, as a result of which it doesn’t have to be informed, and it doesn’t have to inform. I think we desperately need to be informed about our times, and our history, and our human condition, and at the moment, the novel is really only good for the latter. Of course, I only mean the ones worth reading.”