my review of Freedom last week, this blog will officially be a Franzen-free zone for awhile. (And there was much rejoicing, I'm sure...) But I did want to quickly point out this silliness to start this month's compendium of literary links: If you buy the "August 31st" edition of Freedom, which is Oprah-sticker-free, on Amazon, you're shelling out $15.12. However, if you can bear the Oprah stank (I mean, sticker) on your book, you get to save $1.12. Weird. Funny. Oprahtastic. If you haven't bought the book yet, which would you pick?
And speaking of big things (uh, I mean Franzen's book, not Oprah) let's get right to this month's literary links:
1. Is Big Back? — This piece from The Million points out that the excess of the '90s is back, baby! That is, contrary to the notion that our short attention spans (squirrel!), reality TV and Twitter are killing novels, publishers are actually more willing to take chances on long novels these days; The Lonely Polygamist, The Instructions and Matterhorn — all by little-known novelists — are cited as three of many examples. One reason given is that long novels do a good job of spreading the recession-addled entertainment dollar much further. As someone who loves a good doorstop of a book, I loved hearing this, especially: "At the very least, the current boom, or miniboom, in big books should tell us that novelists still believe in this kind of reader. In the end, this may be enough to ensure her survival." How about you? Enjoy the occasional thousand-pager?
2. The Plot Escapes Me — I loved this essay by James Collins in the NY Times about not being able to remember the plots of books he's read. Collins wonders "Why read books if we can’t remember what’s in them?" Is reading, then, ultimately a waste of time? Of course not, but not being able to remember books I've read terrifies me. So, almost 10 years ago, freshly out of college, I decided to combat the problem by keeping a running "diary" of books I've read. I started spending 30 minutes or so writing out some thoughts after finishing a book — a plot summary or just general impressions — in a document...which has now grown to more than 300 single-spaced typed pages and almost 200,000 words. But don't worry, I'm not plotting to blow anything up. As OCD as it sounds, I love going back and looking over what I wrote about a book I read 6 or 7 years ago. How do you remember the books you've read?
The Unconsoled: Profile of David Grossman — This moving, engaging New Yorker profile of Israeli novelist David Grossman is, simply put, one of the best magazine articles I've read in a long, long time. It's lengthy, but very well worth the time, as it describes how Grossman's politics and view of his country have evolved in war-torn Israel. "For Grossman, literature has offered a refuge from the relentless glare of history," the article explains. The article also explains the inspiration for his newest novel (titled To The End of the Land, due out next week) and how a tragic event caused that vision for the book to change. Very highly recommended!
4. 10 Pulitzer Winners Everyone Should Own — How many of these 10 have you read? Me: Kavalier and Clay, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Confederacy of Dunces, The Killer Angels, and The Color Purple — 5 of 10. Has anyone read The Executioner's Song? Interesting that Norman Mailer's thousand-plus page tome is at #2 — but as best I can tell, it's out of print. You SHOULD own it, but you can't buy it new. Amusing. I do like that Kavalier and Clay is #1, though.
5. The Pale King Cover and Release Date — David Foster Wallace's last novel will be released April 15, 2011. Tax day — appropriate for a novel about IRS workers. 'nuff said. Can't wait.
There ya have it. What out there in media land has caught your eye this month?