Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"Ulysses": The Great Novel No One Can Finish

It's OK to admit it: You tried to read James Joyce's "Ulysses" and ended up chucking the thing aside in frustration. You are not alone. According to her letters, Virginia Woolf had a long stall after 200 pages. Several well-known authors in the Book Review's By the Book interview feature admit to leaving the novel unfinished. "Ulysses" even notched the No. 3 spot in the Top Five Abandoned Classics poll published by the Goodreads site a few years ago.

J. D. Biersdorfer 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Sequels To Novels

Some sequels seem fitting or inevitable while others, usually ones written by somebody besides the original and dead author, feel more like grave robberies. But the impulse toward exhumation can be hard to resist.

Thomas Mallon

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Grand Tour Novel

Novelists send their characters abroad for the same reason we send ourselves: for a change of pace, to get out of a rut, to shake off the rust. Henry James built a whole career on exploring the theme of Americans traveling abroad and being transformed by the experience.

Charles McGrath 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Google Versus Library Research

When you're writing a book based on archival research and you have two children who come home from school at three, no matter how much you love libraries, you become grateful for Google. For three years, I sat down most mornings at my dining room table in my slippers and read newspapers in the 1870s. No need to travel to distant archives, or spend fruitless hours turning the wrong pages. I could open a browser, punch in a range of dates and a few search terms, and within seconds have a presorted queue of articles, every one of which was relevant.

Janice P. Nimura 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Tolerating Bad Behavior In The Name Of Art

The belief that artists are entitled to be morally careless--that great art excuses everything--has proved to be one of the more tenacious parts of our Romantic inheritance. In Hollywood movies about artists, the characters who challenge the hero's license to be inconsiderate--the landlady who hassles van Gogh about the appalling state of his garret, the neighbor who yells at Beethoven to keep the noise down, the sulky wife who insists that Johnny Cash stop canoodling with June Carter--are invariably presented as dreary philistines who must be ignored or defeated if truth and beauty are to triumph.

Zoe Heller 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Writing The Novelization Versus The Screenplay

A novelization is much harder to write than a screenplay. When a couple of screenwriters take a best-selling novel and write a screenplay from it and it wins a couple Academy Awards, everybody says thats great writing. But when you take a screenplay and turn it into a novel, it's a much more difficult task because there's much more writing involved and much more character development and scene development. Some people say it's hack work. I say the writing stands on its own.

Dean Foster 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Writer Immortality

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.

Woody Allen 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Writers' Envy

Writers are known to suffer a few categories of envy. There is envy of money, of accolades, of publication in this or that place. There is envy of profligacy and of well-managed scarcity. There is envy of accomplishment and of potential. There is envy of great writing and envy of those who despite not being great seem immune to self-doubt. And all of these envies are simply a feeling that is shorthand for one thought: "He doesn't deserve that….but I might."

Sarah Manguso 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Novels Are Written Word By Word

I kind of build a novel the way marine polyps build a coral reef; it's millions and millions of little precarious bodies stacked on one another.

Dean Koontz 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Humor In Literary Fiction

Make the reader laugh, and he will think you a trivial fellow. But bore him the right way and your reputation is assured. 

Somerset Maugham 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Are Book Reviews About The Book Or The Reviewer?

Literary criticism shouldn't be about performing intellectual acrobatics to prove yourself, and that's how I'd describe a lot of the reviews I wrote.

Alice Gregory 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Avoiding Scholarly Books Because The Writing Is So Bad

Honestly: scholars bore me. I don't have the spine to withstand colorless writing for very long, and furthermore I suspect that colorless writing is indicative of colorless thought.

Luc Sante