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  • “Mario purchased pickup trucks from which he removed panels and lights. The trick was packing the drugs in a part of the vehicle where the body wouldn’t lose its hollow sound when slapped.” These two sentences just got author Dan Slater‘s new book Wolf Boys banned from Texas prisons, inadvertently calling attention to Banned Books Week. Pair with two of our essays about controversial reads.


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    ~Kirstin Butler
  • In Case You Missed It: This email exchange between playwright Sarah Ruhl and the late Max Ritvo, whose Four Reincarnations is out next week: “I think my mind is a set of lapis lazuli steps falling apart, and all I want is to be told ‘it’s alright, we rebuild it every day’ But what is the it? What is it? And if I was vaporized by a ray gun but was then replaced instantly by an identical person with an identical filigree of nerves shot through with identical sparks cased in an identical skull—would it still be me? I don’t think so. I don’t know if even a perfect Reincarnation would be a Reincarnation to me, in my heart.  I’m starting to feel like Theseus and I just want my fucking ship out of the dry-dock and back on the water.”


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    ~Brian Etling
  • “Nothing in Born to Run rings to me as unmeant or punch-pulling. If anything, Springsteen wants credit for telling it the way it really is and was. And like a fabled Springsteen concert — always notable for its deck-clearing thoroughness — Born to Run achieves the sensation that all the relevant questions have been answered by the time the lights are turned out.” Richard Ford reviews The Boss’s new book for the New York Times.


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    ~Brian Etling
  • Interested in writing a bestseller? You may want to check out Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers‘ newest book, The Bestseller Code. Or maybe not: “At times, it seems like Archer and Jockers are trying to retrofit a closed system. They found that best-sellers have lots of contractions—the better, they explain, to mimic contemporary speech—and exclamation points only rarely … They conclude that best-sellers consist of ‘shorter, cleaner sentences, without unneeded words,’ and that best-selling characters ‘make things happen.’ Active verbs predict best-sellers better than passive verbs. ‘Hesitation doesn’t keep pages turning,’ Archer and Jockers decide. After all that work, in other words, the algorithm ends up confirming the uncontested tenets of craft and style.”


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    ~Brian Etling
  • Swarm and Spark, a new column at The Millions, invites you to write with your questions about publishing, the literary life, or writing. The column is written by two anonymous figures: a NYC editor with years in the industry and an MFA professor at a long-established program. Ask anything that has plagued, confounded, pleased or troubled you about your life in and around literature and you may be answered, always with respect: your question will be treated as anonymous as well. Send your true confessions, complaints and queries to [email protected].


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    ~Swarm and Spark
  • Might I suggest a Pamplemousse with that Ben Fountain, sir? BookRiot has very helpfully compiled a list of La Croix/book pairings. See also: this in memoriam for Michael Jackson, beer connoisseur. Yeah no, not the one you’re thinking of.


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    ~Kirstin Butler
  • Thriller writer James Patterson was set to publish a novel in November about an attempt on his author colleague Stephen King‘s life, subtly titled The Murder of Stephen King. Following reports of real-life threats against King, however, the book has been scuttled. After you’ve read that tale of high dudgeon, see also our editor-in-chief Lydia Kiesling’s essay, “Everything I Know About America I Learned from Stephen King.”


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    ~Kirstin Butler
  • Must be willing to perform “light, household maintenance.” Harry Bliss, an illustrator and cartoonist at The New Yorker, has purchased the former home of J.D. Salinger and will turn it into a retreat for one lucky cartoonist during February 2017. Pair with our review of J.D. Salinger: A Life, a comprehensive biography of the famously reclusive writer’s work.


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    ~Kirstin Butler
  • “His life’s work, and his stunning prose, teaches us to better understand political influence, American democracy, and the true power of biography.” The National Book Foundation just announced Robert Caro as this year’s recipient of the National Book Awards lifetime achievement medal. Definitely pair with this piece by our own Michael Bourne on Caro’s epic literary ambitions.


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    ~Kirstin Butler
  • “He is a man who has written a lot about politics and knows something about expectation-setting — set the bar low, and it’ll be easy to top it.” The Awl rounds up its review series of online Masterclasses with such esteemed personages as Aaron Sorkin, James Patterson, and Werner Herzog. See also: our own Sonya Chung‘s review of Sorkin’s film The Social Network.


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    ~Kirstin Butler
  • “It’s rough out there for artists and writers right now, I know. There are days when you just want to throw in the towel, say fuck it, fake your own death, give insurance fraud a go, and live out of a Winnebago somewhere in remote Ontario. That’s a good plan—that’s a really good plan—but remember, you’ve got options.” The Paris Review considers the life of artist Reuben Kadish, who bought a disused dairy farm, made it a viable business in a decade’s time, and changed his medium from painting to sculpture in the process.

    For those of us who refuse to trade in the typewriter, however, there’s always our popular piece on how to write a novel.

     


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    ~Kirstin Butler
  • New this week: The Wonder by Emma DonoghueReputations by Juan Gabriel VásquezThe Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBrideAmerican Prophets by Albert J. Raboteau; Odes by Sharon Olds; and The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2016 Book PreviewSupport The MillionsBookmark this link and start there when you shop at Amazon.


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    ~Thomas Beckwith

Read More The Millions Top 10 August 2016