Sunday, July 31, 2016

Books Versus The Internet

E-book sales have plateaued. Bookstores have staged a modest resurgence. Turning off your phone has become a prized luxury. Over these last few years all of us, readers and writers alike, have developed a growing appreciation for what the Internet wants to take away: our time alone with the written word.

Lorin Stein 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Booze: The Enemy Of Creativity

Lewis Hyde's essay "Alcohol and Poetry: John Berryman and the Booze Talking" is a fascinating artifact of anger. It's an attack on the poems in "The Dream Songs" waged in Berryman's own name. Hyde protests the idea of Berryman's alcoholism as something that fueled or abetted his creative process--resisting the mythos of the Drunk Poet and presenting booze as a creative enemy.

Leslie Jamison 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Why Many Writers Are Less Impressive In Person Than Their Books

A book, Proust wrote, "is the product of a different self from the self we manifest in our habits, in our social life, in our vices." This may explain why authors are often a disappointment in the flesh, particularly when you have admired their wisdom on the page. The common-place vices of an other-directed existence--vanity, envy, insecurity--seem to be magnified many times among these denizens of solitude.

Pankaj Mishra 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Learning To Write Well

To learn to write and write decently is simply a much longer and harder thing than is generally admitted.

James Gould Cozzens 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Praise For Stephen King

To say Stephen King is the Edgar Allan Poe of our generation is to diminish him. He's had a longer and more nuanced career. He'll be read a hundred years from now.

Jonathan Kellerman 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Writing About Old Memories

Old memories are very easy to get, except that once you write about something, you've destroyed it. You no longer have the memory. You only have the memory of what you've written.

Anne Dillard

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Novella Genre

Katherine Anne Porter argued (or at least asserted) that "novella" is "a slack, boneless, affected word that we do not need to describe anything"; her stern yet vague taxonomy recognized only "short stories, long stories, short novels, novels."

David Gates

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Plagiarism

I have sympathy for plagiarists to some extent--because it's really hard to know what you've invented and what is someone else's invention that you've absorbed.

Helen Oyeyemi

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Literature's Limited Influence On Life

Life is larger than books. Any bully has more character-building effects on you than the most moving of books.

Alvaro Enrique 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Coming Up With a Title For Your Novel

I make a list of titles after I've finished the book--sometimes as many as a hundred. Then I start eliminating them, sometimes all of them.

Ernest Hemingway 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Unreal Protagonists

Heroes are always too heroic to be real. Or wholly sympathetic. James Bond is nicely flawed. Sadistic. Sexist. Bitter. I like that. I hate Sherlock Holmes in all his incarnations.

Philip Kerr 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Novels Would Benefit From Less psychobabble And More Action

Literature has become too psychological. We discount the physical, when in fact much of life is physical. People's personalities are partly formed by, or in response to, how they take up space.

Karan Mahajan

Thursday, July 14, 2016

How Do Most Novelists Survive?

When people ask me what I do for a living, I try to change the subject. If they persist, I tell them I teach writing, judge writing contests, edit manuscripts, and give lectures and readings. These are not lies; I do all these things. They are, in fact, what I do for a living--that is, to pay the rent and health insurance. What I do for a life is write, and that's the part that's hard to explain.

Rebecca McClanahan 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Even Good Novels Have Weak Endings

The pithiest book about writing is E. M. Forster's Aspect of the Novel, in which he chose to reveal some of the trade's darkest secrets. "Nearly all novels are feeble at the end," he observed. "This is because the plot requires to be wound up, and usually the characters go dead." My own interpretation is that all novels are hobbled at their end by a fundamental problem of verisimilitude: Life goes on, but a novel does not.

Scott Turow 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Problem With Young Adult Fiction

Young adult fiction is filled with despair, mental illness and violence. I don't believe that young adults should be shielded from these elements of existence, but why don't we create a more balanced picture? It is as if moral courage, kindness and joy do not really exist, or worse, that they are not really interesting, not the real stuff of life.

Adele Baruch

Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Novel Should Be More Than Just A Collection Of Literary Sentences

I don't read a Don DeLillo novel for its plot, character, or setting…I read a DeLillo novel for its sentences. [Give me a break. Who wants to read a book-length collection of literary pretentious sentences?]

Joshua Ferris

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Importance Of A Novel's Setting

In a novel, the convergence of a single figure or group of figures in a bare unpopulated landscape foreshadows a grim outcome.

Mary McCarthy

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Manuscript Rejection Response

When you get used to being disappointed, the recovery time gets shorter, the time you need before you get back to work gets shorter and shorter.

Colson Whitehead

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

College Writing Students

I think that out of seven years of teaching [at the University of Pennsylvania] I found maybe two students who had their own voice, in my judgment. There were lots who were competent but only two who were startling.

Paula Fox 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Writing Skills Common To Journalists and Novelists

It's easy to recognize the tools in the journalist's kit that also work in a novelist's hands: an economic but energetic prose style; solid intuition about the motives of the characters; an appreciation for detail; a good sense of how individuals connect in society.

Scott Turow  

Monday, July 4, 2016

Novels Without Humor

It's the hardest thing, writing humor into a book. But it's also essential. I just don't feel like I've got a book unless there's something funny in it.

Louise Erdrich 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Aging Writer

There are several compensations for growing older as a writer, as you get to know yourself better, in your writing inclinations and so on. One gets more cunning, improves one's technique slightly as one gets older.

Kingsley Amis