Thursday, January 27, 2011

January's Compendium of Literary Links

As the wind howls and the snow drifts, winter is the perfect time for those giant, chunky books you've been hoarding all year, right? I'm actually on my second 1,000-plus-page novel since November (The Instructions, and now Gone With The Wind), and also just finished the first book in the 1,500-plus-page Millennium series. So, this month's literary links features some articles related to these oversized books/series. Enjoy!

1. Adam Levin's The Instructions and the Cult of the Child — With examples like Oskar Shell, from Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Gurion from Levin's fantastic novel, this Millions article takes a look at the child genius trope in American literature. The main thrust of the piece, though, is a review of The Instructions. The verdict: "But The Instructions turns out to be, for better and for worse, something like the Only Kid Genius Novel You’ll Ever Need. That is, it simultaneously makes good on the subgenre’s promise and exposes its limitations." I loved the novel, but whole-heartedly agree with that assessment.

2. Man of Mystery — Beginning with a brief bio and overview of the estate controversy, this New Yorker story attempts to explain why Steig Larsson's (mostly mediocre, according to the NYer) Millennium Trilogy has struck such a cord with readers. It's an interesting read that provides a lot of depth and background to the hugely successful series. The Reading Ape also provided his own take on why the novels are successful — an equally good read. 

3. For Tolstoy and Russia, Still No Happy Ending — This NY Times piece explains why Leo Tolstoy doesn't get his deserved due in his native land (hint: It's religion related). Though Russians' blasé attitude toward their greatest writer is a relatively recent phenomenon, the piece says, it's a rather strange one, given what a celebrity Tolstoy was when he was alive.

4. Gone With The Wind: A Literary Pilgrimage — Connie at The Blue Bookcase discusses her recent trip to Margaret Mitchell's house in Atlanta. I loved the fact that she over-paid for a copy of the book in the house that it was written. That's exactly what I would've done too.

5. NBCC Award Finalists and the 2011 Tournament of Book Finalists — The finalists for the National Book Critics Circle award look about what I expected the finalists for the National Book Award to look like, and vice versa. Also, the Sweet 16 for the 2011 Tournament of Books has few surprises. More great analysis by The Reading Ape here. I've only read six of the finalists, and am rooting for Bloodroot or Kapitoil, but they're long-shots. Who's your choice?


  1. Since sadly Next is the only one of the top 16 I got to last year that is my current choice, but a few of the titles are in my upcoming TBR. Looking forward to seeing how it plays out this year!

  2. I'm getting stuck into (relatively) long books atm. No 1000+ pagers, but Nicola Barker's Darkmans is a very full 840 pages, and I might finally get around to The Corrections after that.

    These shortlists always remind me how behind the times I am with reading. Maybe next year I might try and keep up with the Booker, at least.

  3. I agree that it's perfectly fine to over-pay for a book at an author's home. Of course, I may be retroactively justifying such purchases in my past! But I also own a gorgeous edition of Little Women, purchased by my grandfather at Orchard House in 1925. I'm thrilled to have it, even if he had to overpay to get it.

  4. Thanks for the linkage, Greg. I am at 10/16 for the ToB shortlist right now, with the rest at the ready.

    What are the 6 you've read? In descending order of preference? Putting on my book-maker's hat.

    Oh yea, Kerry over at hosts and annual ToB bracket contest so you should enter too. I'll link to it on my blog once she gets it all sorted.

  5. @P&P - Me too - I love the ToB. I haven't read Next - good?

    @Ben - I'd say 840 pages counts as long! And yeah, those lists tend to make me feel woefully underread, too.

    @Amy - That's awesome - what a great souvenir/family heirloom!

    Ape - No problem on the linkage - and thanks for the heads up on the ToB bracket contest. I'm in for sure. The six in descending order of preference are: Freedom, Room, Skippy Dies, Bloodroot, Kapitoil, and Super Sad True Love Story. I know I said I'm rooting for Bloodroot and Kapitoil, but that's only because they're the Butler and Northern Iowa.

  6. I'm 1 for 16 in the Tournament. And that solitary title is the F-Book. However, there are plenty on that list I *want* to read. So, I guess I'd vote for "Freedom" simply because it's the only horse I've ridden in this race.

  7. Cool, thanks for the shout out to The Blue Bookcase!