Do writers really retire? I’m skeptical of public announcements. I quit blogging last year, yet here I am. That’s it, I’m retiring again.
The message of literary magazine covers: “Don’t read me.” Daniel Wallace suggests maybe they’re not aiming to be read, but rather aiming for prestige. Becky Tuch weighs in and says, hey, there’s a lot of great stuff out there if you dig for it. The question is: Should literary magazines market themselves, and if so, how much?
David Foster Wallace on ambition, illustrated.
Daily routines of famous writers.
Interview with John Le Carre in the NY Times.
Sam Lipsyte interviews himself.
More about the future of publishing.
Our Purdue friend and colleague James Tadd Adcox has a new project, a downloadable correspondence between him and Robert Kloss.
James Salter profiled in the New Yorker (gated, but worth scaring up a copy). Also, a companion podcast.
Barry Hannah’s lost novel.
A case against creative writing programs. I have mixed feelings about this one. The best writing is born from experience, but that’s not to say it’s not worth honing your chops until you live into your material. Also, do classical musicians or visual artists hem and haw this much about whether their art can or should be taught? What makes creative writers (and creative writing instructors) think they’re so special? Why are they so insecure?
Let me see if I can avoid drawing the ire of frisky undergraduates this week.
Book experts weigh in on the revolution in publishing.
The Rumpus interviews Adrian Van Young.
What writing programs ought to teach you.
25 things Blake Butler learned from submitting. Also, here’s his submission chart.
Old New Yorker post about Roger Ebert (RIP) winning its caption contest. This stuck out, quoted from this blog post:
Third, cartoon contest winners usually generate lots of captions. Studies of creativity have shown that quantity breeds quality—what I call the productivity theory, because high productivity corresponds to high creativity.
I’m excited about the new James Salter. Not everyone is. For instance, this and this.
Our friend and Purdue colleague, Mehdi Okasi, has a story in Guernica Magazine.
I don’t know what’s going on in Cathy Day’s literary citizenship class, but her students are coming away with a harsh (realistic?) view of publishing. On one hand, I really admire this effort at professionalism, but on the other hand, I’m not sure it’s good for writers (or at least, their writing) to be obsessing over publishing before they’ve spent some time on their craft.
Most contemporary literary fiction is terrible, says a guy who writes contemporary literary fiction. He makes some fair points, and I think you can waste an awful lot of time trying to keep up with the hottest new writers out there, but I’m also skeptical of blanket statements like that.
Here’s a feel-good story for those of you toiling away: A teenager just landed a three-book deal for her romance novels. It sounds like writing is her hobby, and she plans to do other, perhaps better things with her life.
PBS aired its American Masters special on Philip Roth last night — well worth checking out.
James Salter’s new novel, All That Is, comes out Tuesday. Rumor has it that it’s the 88-year-old author’s best work. Why isn’t he more popular?
It’s been a busy week for the WITTScasters, but the world doesn’t stop.
Fiction Writers Review interviews J. Robert Lennon.
The Review Review submits New Yorker stories, which are soundly rejected. No surprise, not because the New Yorker stories are no good, but because literary journal screeners have so much to wade through that great stories get rejected all the time. The twist is that the New Yorker rejected a few of its old stories. Slate calls BS.
Ron Rash on writing. I’ve got a review of his new collection coming out this weekend, and I’ll post a link.
Cathy Day on the “abyss” between school and publication. Most writers don’t make it through this phase. Also, she weighs in on professionalism in general.
Should writers write for free? This is a complex issue, worthy of more thoughts.
Chapter 16 has an interview with Appalachian poet Jesse Graves — the poet and the interview are both well worth checking out.
An argument against funding MFAs. Interesting, because the guy who donated to an MFA program — Sam Zell — is presented an anti-news, anti-journalism profit-monger in the Page One documentary.
On James Michener and post-40 bloomers. I’m not sure it’s news anymore to talk about late bloomers, but Michener is one of those interesting, omnipresent but never read writers.
Will authors get compensated for used e-book sales? What a messed up business the publishing world has become.
Support your local bookstores.
Michael Crichton knew Jasper Johns? Weird.
Is it time for authors to quit blogging? Probably.
Finally, enjoy this little aside.
I’ll be bogged down at AWP for the next few days, so no weekend roundup from me. But there’s plenty of book news to go around already:
Selections from one-star reviews of Moby-Dick at Amazon. I’m no fan of star ratings, but these are funny. The clever: “Moby Ick’s more like it.” The stupid: “Honestly, Over 400 pages devoted to killing a whale because it ate your hand? Come on.” The sad truth: “It is hard to read. like work. Doubt he could get published today.”
Ann Patchett is my new hero. “I heard about the reference this morning from an old boyfriend who called me a ‘meme,’ and then I had to ask him what a ‘meme’ was,” Patchett told Salon via email. (Sidenote: I used to think “meme” was pronounced “may-may.”)
Poet and Purdue professor Marianne Boruch wins a big-deal poetry prize.
PBS is running an American Masters on Philip Roth to coincide with his eightieth birthday this month.
Tips for writing very short fiction. Not for me, but maybe one of you brevi-philes will enjoy.
25 things writers should beware of. Mostly common sense. If someone wants you to pay them, beware.
Interview with Darnell Arnoult and Denton Loving, co-editors of the new online journal Drafthorse.
Good week for interesting book reading!
The Millions compares contemporary fiction to contemporary Detroit — both due for a comeback now that the economy has burned them down. The article mentions Joshua Cohen; I’ve been hearing about him for a while now but have yet to check him out.
Speaking of contemporary problems, here are some challenges to adapting a novel to television. I know we’re in kind of a golden age for well-written television (especially compared to the current shlock coming out of Hollywood), but can’t we appreciate fiction for its own sake?
New York Magazine created an infograph to assess Philip Roth. Roxane Gay finds it troubling for its lack of female participants.
Friction between Barnes & Noble and Simon & Schuster, probably related to B&N wanting more discounts. It’s a tough situation for S&S authors with new books this month, but it’s probably nothing to the turmoil to come. I think B&N should go private, because those Wall Street jackalopes are going to drive them out of business.
Will Wilkinson talks “defamiliarization.” Excellent reading.
AWP is coming up. Here’s all you need to know.
Cathy Day’s latest blog post is about time and why she can’t help every stray would-be writer who calls her. She has a wealth of online and social media resources, she says, but she has to draw a line somewhere, because she’s experiencing information overload.
When she posted this on Facebook, one of her friends said it reminded her of this NSFW post about why a screenwriter won’t read your script — in short, because he doesn’t have time, he has other obligations, and because your script probably isn’t any good and he doesn’t want to be the one to tell you.
Question: Why is writing so special? You can make fun of someone for being bad at math, but if you critique someone’s writing (or speech), it crushes their spirit. Is it because language makes us human, so by critiquing someone’s language, you’re critiquing their humanity?