Is Literature Disappearing Up It’s Own A-Hole?

A.M.B. at the Misfortune of Knowing addresses Horace Engdahl criticism of the professionalization of writing. Instead of having normal jobs, writers can now get support from foundations and educational institutions that allow them to write full-time. Engdahl thinks the failure of writers to get real jobs will rob them of the experiences they need to become good writers. She points out that there is a “kernel of truth in his words: experience matters.” Do you agree with A.M.B.?

The Misfortune Of Knowing

Horace Engdahl seems to think so.

In comments to Le Croix, Horace Engdahl (of the Swedish Academy responsible for the Nobel Prize) criticized the “professionalization” of writing through financial support from foundations and educational institutions that allow writers to leave their “day jobs” to devote more time to writing. Noting that it’s particularly a problem for the “western side” of the world, he said:

Even though I understand the temptation, I think it cuts writers off from society, and creates an unhealthy link with institutions… Previously, writers would work as taxi drivers, clerks, secretaries and waiters to make a living. Samuel Beckett and many others lived like this. It was hard – but they fed themselves, from a literary perspective.

If we set aside Engdahl’s hypocrisy — he’s a literary academic linked with an institution — there’s a kernel of truth in his words: experience matters. Real-life experiences inform…

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Reading Jane Austen with Vladimir Nabokov

How did Nabokov read Jane Austin? Janine Barchas has a fascinating post at the JHU Press Blog about how Vladimir Nabokov both read and taught Jane Austin to his students. Barchas closely read Nabokov’s lectures and examined his “battered and marked-up teaching copy” of Austin’s Mansfield Park. Nabokov’s notations demonstrated that Nabokov not only closely read Austin’s book, but demonstrate that sought to completely understand the world that Austin had created. We all should take Barchas’s advice and read more like Nabokov.

Jane Barchas’s is the author of Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity

Johns Hopkins University Press Blog

Guest post by Janine Barchas

Great writers are great readers. And nothing dials up the magnification on a book like the green-eyed gaze of a fellow author.

In 2014, many Jane Austen fans have been rereading what is arguably her darkest and most difficult novel in celebration of Mansfield Park’s bicentenary. One unique copy of that novel, formerly owned by Russian-born American novelist Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977), enables the rereading of one great novelist over the shoulder of another.

nabokov 1

During the 1940s and 1950s, Nabokov taught at Wellesley and Cornell. He lectured there on fiction, placing Austen on his syllabus alongside Flaubert, Dickens, Proust, Kafka, and Joyce. The Austen novel he chose to teach was, ambitiously, Mansfield Park. Nabokov’s battered and marked-up teaching copy (an Everyman’s Library reprint from 1948) currently resides in the New York Public Library as part of the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection…

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The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee

A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff has a review of Neel Mukherjee’s book The Lives of Others which was shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize. The Little Blog describes the book as “an ambitious and richly detailed family saga” of three generations of Indian family in 1967 Calcutta. The Little Blog states that the book “deserves it place” on the Booker shortlist. Check out The Little Blog’s review.

A Little Blog of Books

The Lives of OthersShortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, ‘The Lives of Others’ by Neel Mukherjee tells the story of twenty-one year old Supratik Ghosh who has left his comfortable family home in Calcutta/Kolkata to join the Communist Party of India. Set primarily in 1967, the story alternates between Supratik’s new life as a Naxalite activist and guerilla fighter working in the rice fields of West Bengal and the everyday lives of the relatives he has left behind. 

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Behind the Covers: “No-No Boy”

The University of Washington press recently republished John Okada’s classic novel No-No Boy. In the story, the protagonist, Ichiro Yamada is interned with his family during World War II. When he filled out “a compulsory government questionnaire as to whether he would serve in the armed forces and swear loyalty” he answered no to each of these questions. After answering no, no Yamada was imprisoned for two years. The story follows Yamada after the war as he tries to negotiate his life as a no-no boy. Originally published 1956, the University of Washington is re-introducing this book to American readers. Take a look the post from the University of Washington Press blog to understand why they have re-published this classic work.

University of Washington Press Blog

NoNo-OkadaJohn Okada‘s classic novel, No-No Boy, tells the story of Ichiro Yamada, a fictional version of a real-life “no-no boy.” During World War II, Yamada answered “no” twice in a compulsory government questionnaire as to whether he would serve in the armed forces and swear loyalty to the United States. Unwilling to pledge himself to the country that interned him and his family, Ichiro earned two years in prison and the hostility of his family and community when he returns home to Seattle. As Ruth Ozeki writes in her introduction to the new edition of the book, Ichiro’s “obsessive, tormented” voice subverts Japanese postwar “model-minority” stereotypes, showing a fractured community and one man’s “threnody of guilt, rage, and blame as he tries to negotiate his reentry into a shattered world.”

First published in 1956, No-No Boy was virtually ignored by a public eager to put World War II and…

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The Man Booker Prize for 2014 Shortlist

On September 9th, the Man Booker Prizes announced their shortlist this years award.

The Nominees include American authors for the very first time.  This year’s nominees are:

Joshua Ferris (US), To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Viking)

Richard Flanagan (Australian), The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Chatto & Windus)

Karen Joy Fowler (US), We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Serpent’s Tail)

Howard Jacobson (British), J (Jonathan Cape)

Neel Mukherjee (British), Lives of Others (Chatto & Windus)

How to be Both

Ali Smith (British), How To Be Both (Hamish Hamilton)

 

The Man Booker Prize Shortlist

Which American Novels Should Have Won the Booker Prize?

2014 is the first year that American novels will be eligible to win the Man Booker Prize.  The Guardian has published a list of books that various writers and critics, such as Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, Curtis Sittenfield, Edna O’Brien and Joshua Ferris, believe should have won if they had been eligible.  No, Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections did not make the list.


John Mullen – Humboldt’s Gift (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) by Saul Bellow (1975)


Julian Barnes – The Easter Parade by Richard Yates (1976)


Colm Toibin – The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer (1979)


Elaine Showalter – The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth


Jane Smiley – Love Medicine (P.S.) by Louise Erdrich (1984)

Martin Amis – White Noise (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions) by Don Delillo (1985)

Claire Messud – Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987)

Philip Hensher – Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard (1992)

Laura Miller – Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (1996)

Joshua Ferris – Mason and Dixon by Thomas Pynchon (1997)

Peter Carey – Plainsong by Kent Haruf (1999)

Sarah Churchwell – Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (2004)

Edna O’Brien – Train Dreams by Denis Johnson (2012)

John Banville – Canada by Richard Ford (2012)

Curtis Sittenfeld – Cartwheel by Jennifer DuBois (2013)

 

 

Check the Guardian article to read why these authors picked these books.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/ng-interactive/2014/sep/12/booker-prize-american-novels-that-should-have-won

Book #27: The Sound And The Fury

Robert Bruce has a wonderful blog named 101 Books. Bruce is reading his way through Time Magazine’s 100 Greatest Novels. Book #27 is William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury. While I am partial to The Sound and the Fury, I completely understand Bruce’s critique. It is a wonderful book, but Faulkner’s stream of consciousness can wear a person down. It is book that almost requires professional assistance. Enjoy Bruce’s review.

101 Books

Reading The Sound and The Fury helped me realize something important: This 101 book project is a lot like marathon training.

Over the course of the 16 weeks I trained, I made somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 to 70 runs. Every now and then, maybe once every 10 runs, I would step outside, walk down my driveway, and seriously consider skipping that training run.

I just didn’t want to put in the effort that day. I felt unmotivated and thought, What’s it going to hurt to skip one 5 mile run anyway? But I willed myself to put one foot in front of the other. And after about 45 minutes of running, I completed my mileage goal for the day.

Even if I was simply going through the motions–getting the “mileage in”–I still felt a sense of accomplishment, satisfied that I had fought through that desire to quit.

The…

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