Thursday, June 10, 2010

Another Compendium of Literary Links

A number of interesting articles have popped up around the literary world in the last few weeks, so I thought I'd spend another post pointing out a few of the items that have caught my eye, in the hope you'll find something fascinating here as well. 

1. The Death and Life of the Book Review — If you're willing to expend quite a bit of intellectual capital, not to mention time, this excellent piece in this month's The Nation explains the real reasons for the slow genocide of newspaper book sections. It's partly "the anti-intellectual ethos of newspapers themselves" and partly cultural. But despite the changing culture and the fact that only a few newspaper books sections remain, the author asserts that there's still "a genuine hunger for serious books coverage," and explains how book reviews may flourish in magazines and on the Web, even citing ("despite its commercialism") the wonderful Barnes & Noble Review as a city on a hill. The author ends on a note of clear optimism: "Despite the turmoil and doubts, I think there's no better time than the present to be covering books." It's a truly fantastic article! 

2. 20 Under 40 — The New Yorker's annual list of 20 young novelists isn't interesting for the names themselves because many (Joshua Ferris, Jonathan Safran Foer, Nicole Krauss) are pretty well-established. It's worth looking at for the interviews with each writer. For instance, I find it fascinating that one of Joshua Ferris's favorite writers is Thomas Pynchon. I'm not sure why that should be interesting, but it stood out to me. The list is in conjunction with the magazine's annual fiction issue, so you can also find stories by writers on the list, including Gary Shteyngart, Salvatore Scibona, and Rivka Galchen.

3. 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die — This list, which isn't exactly new, but is new to me, is compiled in book form based on the recommendations of hundreds of literary critics. It's a great resource if you're looking for ideas for what to read next. No, I didn't go through the exercise of actually counting how many I've read, but if you do, I'd love to hear your score! 

4. Lethem "Replacing" DFW — Jonathan Lethem is taking David Foster Wallace's spot as the Roy Disney Chair of Creative Writing at Pomona College in California. This kind of made me sad. Nothing against Lethem, but how could anyone ever really fill DFW's shoes in any respect? But, while we're on a DFW kick (and I usually am), here's some happier news: In December, Columbia University Press is publishing DFW's undergraduate thesis titled "Fate, Time and Language." This precedes the publication of his last unfinished novel The Pale King in April, 2011. That, I can't wait for!

5. The Passage review in the NY Times — To atone for my sin of erroneously making fun of Justin Cronin's The Passage as a "paranormal urban vampire romance," here's Janet Maslin's mostly positive review from the NY Times.

Any thoughts on these? Any interesting literary-related articles that have caught your eye recently?


  1. I'm lovin' the links. Especially the 20 under 40. Thanks!

  2. Great list of links. I was sort of huffy about the 20 under 40 list since it's pretty much the expected choices, but I always enjoy a good literary interview, so I'll check those out.

  3. I've counted by score on the 1001 list because I'm neurotic like that. I'm at 199, a surprisingly low number, considering how smart I think I am ;)

  4. LOVED The Nations "Life and death of the book review" - it prompted me to subscribe to the London Book Review! Interesting points he made there but without the whole "the end is nigh and our brains are going to mush" rant. It was good to see him end on the positive note... and inspirational too. It's a challenge to all of us out here writing bookish content to raise the bar - I'll try my best :)

  5. Hi, this is Jillian from Random Ramblings. I am trying to contact all the blog's followers.. if you could please read my latest post about the blog's technical problems, I'd greatly appreciate it. You can read the post right here. Thank you so very much!

  6. All this talk about The Passage. Apparently Cronin is a literary novelist, with an MFA from Iowa who made millions of his vampire book. Actually, I was a bit surprised to hear that publishers are still paying so much for vampire books. I thought it had peaked by now. I'm not sure if I'll read it: it's not really my thing. But I have to admit I am bit curious too see if it is any good or not.

    Here's the article on Cronin's change of fortune from last week:

    I also just read an interesting article on ghostwriters over at the Millions. Actually, it was more of a profile on Michael D'Orso.

    Check it out here:



  7. What a great collection of links. Thanks for the post. These are fabulous. :)

  8. I can't believe the book version of 1001 books you must read before you die is $23. I just can't see myself paying that.
    I also didn't count, but I've read quite a few books on the list, and I'm thinking of taking some of the recommendations. Maybe I'll start with a pre-1700 one just for good measure.

    Oh, and I now want to read the Passage.

  9. Cronin's book is about vampires? Oh The Huffington Post let this slip through: "As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun". I put this on my summer reading list. Now I find out it has vampires in it. Sigh..

  10. I am going to try to count mine from the 1001 list. I'm pretty sure I haven't read half of those yet!