by Hannah Gersen
A new dress, a change of scene, a spontaneous invitation: Marciano understands that these are the superficial actions people take in order to get at the deeper impulses they cannot name.1
by Nick Ripatrazone
Good fiction can be a form of good works. As a Catholic, I recognize that life is a story of continuous revision, of failure and unexpected grace, and of dogged hope. I am comfortable with the white space of ambiguity and mystery. I have faith, not certainty.2
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One of the more persnickety questions a writer has to deal with is how to capitalize the title of a piece correctly. Thankfully, there’s now a website that does it for you, based on the rules in the Chicago Manual of Style.
Is “literary” fiction just a product of clever marketing? Elizabeth Edmondson thinks it is. At The Guardian, she argues that classically literary authors like Jane Austen had no idea they were writing Literature — posterity classified their work as such later on. Her essay dovetails nicely with our own Edan Lepucki’s argument that literature is a genre.
“Well, continuing with my policy of baring my soul, Dwight Garner said something like, the book was like one of those satellite photos of North Korea when I talked about the second marriage. I obviously had very little access to Updike from ‘77 on, really. And I cheated a bit by using Ian McEwan as my spy in the Updike household. First of all, Updike definitely did pull up the drawbridge and retire into his castle and I thought, in a sense, that this should be respected. He had decided on his persona, at that point—the highly professional man of letters. And I thought, why not let him go out with that persona intact?” At The Awl, Elon Green talks with Adam Begley about his new biography of John Updike.
Leslie Jamison’s new essay collection is getting lots of plaudits, not least here at The Millions, where Ryan Teitman argued that Jamison manages to “meet her subjects in utter intimacy.” At the Tin House blog, Stephen Sparks interviews Jamison, who talks about the book, her “shame-seeking superpower” and her epigraph-cum-tattoo.
Getting sick of people who overuse the word “literally”? A new browser extension kindly replaces instances of the word with “figuratively.” At Slate, Will Oremus tries out a godsend for pedants. (A Millions piece by Fiona Maazel nicely complements his article.)
Francine Prose has a new novel out this week, while Elizabeth McCracken has a new story collection on shelves. Also out: Chestnut Street by the late Maeve Binchy; In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman; Terms and Conditions by Robert Glancy; The Selected Letters of Elia Kazan; and new paperback editions of The Color Master by Aimee Bender and The Infatuations by Javier Marias.
On the New Yorker’s Elements blog, our own Mark O’Connell writes about Cloak, a new app which lets you avoid people you don’t want to bump into by accident. Despite the fact that Mark can see himself using the app, he finds it “ultimately troubling,” in large part because it strikes him as “such a lonely thing to have achieved through technological control of our social environments.” (Speaking of apps, have you read Mark’s epic e-book?)
Haven’t checked out the cartoon Adventure Time? You’re missing out, says Maria Bustillos. The Awl and New Yorker contributor explains why you need to check out this show in an essay-cum-one-off-website. If it helps, The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum feels the same way. (h/t The Paris Review)
Year in Reading alum Elizabeth McCracken has a new story collection out this week, and to mark the occasion, she spoke with Kelly Luce over at Salon about her writing, her Twitter obsession and — strangely enough — cannibalism (at least in the context of fairy tales). She also talks about the importance of humor, lamenting that “some young writers mistake humorlessness for seriousness.” (Related: Tanya Paperny wrote a eulogy for the translator Michael Henry Heim.)
We tend to take it for granted that the world needs more translated works. The dictates of common wisdom state that reading translated works help us understand the reality of foreign cultures. But what if translation, which erases at least some nuance from works of literature, instead “sifts out the foreign or the unsettling in the name of easy consumption”? In The Irish Times, Michael Cronin reviews a recent book by NYU professor Emily Apter.
“I had always felt that [Gabriel] García Márquez’s short stories often took a back seat to his longer works, and that his deadpan dark humor was not discussed often enough,” writes Edwidge Danticat.
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Read More The Millions Top 10 March 2014
The Goldfinch Donna Tartt
Selected Stories Alice Munro
The Flamethrowers Rachel Kushner
The Luminaries Eleanor Catton
Draw it With Your Eyes Closed Paper Monument/n+1
The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose Alice Munro
The Lowland Jhumpa Lahiri
Just Kids Patti Smith
Beautiful Ruins Jess Walter
The Circle Dave Eggers