Thursday, October 28, 2010

October's Compendium of Literary Links

It seems like long magazine articles are going the way of the woolly mammoth. Shorter attention spans and pressure on the magazine publishing industry have both contributed to slashed word counts on most magazines' feature articles. (The New Yorker, thank goodness, is a notable exception.) To me, this is all too bad. I love spending an hour immersed in a good 10,000-word piece. So, for this month's compendium of literary links, I'd like to highlight few really good, really long articles (among a few other things). Take your time and savor them!

1) Philip Roth Goes Home Again — This Esquire piece profiles Roth on the occasion of publishing his 31st novel, Nemesis. It gives a rare glimpse of the actual personality of an American treasure (to use a tired cliche) who has shunned celebrity. It's a must-read if you're a Roth fan.

2) Nicole Krauss on Writing Great House —Krauss penned this piece for the Huffington Post to explain how she developed the different elements of her new novel. If you've ever wondered how "writers get their ideas" but are too afraid to ask, this piece is an incredible insight — not just for the genesis of ideas, but how those ideas evolve over the course of working on a novel.

3) The Book Collection That Devoured My Life — I suspect that Luc Sante's book-hoarding, described self-deprecatingly in this Wall Street Journal piece, is just slightly more obsessive than 99 percent of book collectors. But it's still fun to read about. Also, here's a semi-related, only-semi-interesting note: I love literary coincidences. The day my friend Jeff sent me this article, my copy of Tom McCarthy's novel C, which I plan to start soon, arrived in the mail — with a nicely written blurb by Sante on the back cover. I'd never heard of Sante before that day. Good times.

4. Good Writers. Bad Men. Does It Matter? — Ostensibly, this article is a review of a biography of writer VS Naipul titled The World Is What It Is. The piece's author says that reading the biography unexpectedly caused him not to be able to read Naipul anymore. The article provides an interesting take on the separation of art and artist question. Pete Karnas, who writes the highly literary and incredibly smart blog What You Read, pointed out this article from a journal called In Character in his comment on my post last week about separating art and artists.

5. Something Rotten in the Facebook Status — Let's wrap up on a note of brevity and levity. Here we have a retelling of Facebook updates. Thank you, NPR. My favorite: "Hamlet posted an event: A Play That's Totally Fictional and In No Way About My Family."


  1. Thank you for those. I am unduly amused by Hamlet in FB updates!

  2. Number three is great. I love the paragraph where he describes what kinds of books he always looks for ...

    "For me it tends to be more a matter of finding the links between things. I need to fill out my knowledge of Prague, 1949, or the Elizabethan prose writers, or the cross-migration between New York newspapers and Hollywood in the '20s and '30s. I buy every book I see about Gypsies, and most firsthand accounts of vaudeville, and almost everything by lesser-known New Yorker writers of the old regime. I'm always on the lookout for memoirs -- frequently by the less-than-famous -- that supply concrete details of daily life, rather than simply lists of names or dates of parties or, heaven forfend, litanies of traumas. I like books published before 1940 that are illustrated with photographs; even if those are frequently small and murky, they are rare windows into the past. "

    The whole article was very good. Thank you for sharing!

  3. FAnx, fanx and fanx again! I just finished reading Nemesis last night and want to rest my weary brain. These articles will definitely do the trick!

  4. Thanks for these! I especially liked "The Book Collection That Devoured My Life". It's good to know there are still people out there like that (to an extent... it sounds like he could have been on the show Hoarders).

  5. Thanks, Greg. Loved the Nicole Krauss piece. I haven't read Great House, but the article certainly intrigued me.

  6. Thanks for the kind words, Greg. "The Book Collection That Devoured My Life" was a great piece. I can see a bit of myself in there - owning two or three copies of the same book, figuring new and exciting ways to organize, schlepping heavy boxes unnecessary distances. If I'm a book hoarder, so be it.