- Today in “Let’s Pretend There’s a Trend”: Are long novels enjoying a day in the sun? There are, after all, many of them being published this year. “People seem to be seeking wholly immersive experiences,” says one publicist. “They’re binge-watching, they’re cooking from scratch, going on ecotours. And there’s no more immersive experience than reading a good long book.” (Publicists for cocaine, LSD, and MDMA could not be reached for comment.)
- Fantasy authors, on the other hand, are advised to stop writing so many long novels. “A deluge of multi-volume epics has been published over recent years, each one in turn hailed as the next Game of Thrones, only to disappear within a few months as disappointed readers found reality didn’t match the hype … Most were by debut novelists, often interesting writers with some good short stories under their belt, pushed far beyond their technical abilities by an industry hungry for instant commercial success.”
- But if there are too many big books, there are also too many big literary festivals—in fact, the festivals are getting too big for their books, even for the big books. “What is the point of book festivals? To see your favorite authors on stage, hear them read from their books and in conversation? Or meet them, queue up to get their signatures in your first editions, and ask them questions?”
- While we’re at it, our data sets are growing too fast, too; this is your periodic reminder that the digital humanities are divisive and arguably counterproductive. The scholars who built Google Ngram “gave a presentation about how the specific year in which a book is set started getting mentioned much more frequently after the French Revolution, and hypothesized that this had something to do with a new sense of time in the modern nation-state. In fact, as a senior professor attending the presentation immediately pointed out, these were just the years when copyrights, including dates of publication, started appearing in the fronts of books.”
- There is, amid this outsize circus of excess, one man who isn’t big enough: the man who shot the artist Chris Burden with a .22-caliber rifle back in 1971. In the name of the humanities, this fellow was “willing to accept the risk that if he missed his target by inches, art could morph into homicide.” He’s an accountant now.
Yesterday, I was one of several people manning a book-centric advice booth as part of a New York literary festival. For days beforehand, I was paralyzed with nerves. I couldn’t face the other, more legitimate advice-givers; I felt like a charlatan and an impostor. I had something of an existential crisis.
I have always wanted to be a maven. But my standards are high, because I once knew a true maven. She was not a know-it-all; she just knew everything. I met her when I was nineteen and my college boyfriend and I were traveling through London. Lise, who at the time was in her seventies, was a friend of his family, and she was the sort of hostess who welcomed friends, and friends of friends, and acquaintances of friends, to stay with her in her flat, south of Hyde Park.
She was an imposing sort of person, her already-deep voice further deepened by years of chain-smoking. In later years, she had a stern doctor and would periodically use some sort of early e-cigarette, but the Marlboro Reds would generally reappear on the kitchen table. As would the whiskey, the butter. She could speak Russian and German and French and had worked as a translator. Meals at her house lasted for five hours, and at the end everyone was drunk but her. Formerly involved with helping end theater censorship in England—and the widow of a spy-turned-diagnostician-turned-mystery-writer—she seemed to know everyone. Beckett and Pinter and Peter O’Toole would all turn up in her stories; other Sunday lunch guests might be Labour whips, or countesses, or just someone’s young daughter who had lost her way and needed a place to stay for a while. Read More