Category Archives: Hooray Fiction!

Technology is Making Poetry Awesome Again

Despite what Wattpad is doing to the novel, a new program called RapPad has given everyone an excuse to read poetry.

RapPad was designed to help aspiring rappers write the hottest computer generated rhymes. Over at Mental Floss, linguist Arika Okrent recently used the “Generate Line” function to combine famous opening lines with existing rap lyrics. For example:  Continue reading

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Technology is Destroying the Novel Again

AR

Yesterday, the New York Times ran a piece about a storytelling app called Wattpad and the growing popularity of online, serialized novels. The lead example is a work called After that has built an audience of one million readers for its frequent installments — which are read on smart phones.

As a blog and a so-called “micro press,” we at Fiction Advocate are not automatically averse to new ways of advocating for fiction. And yet, all of us here are also notoriously over 30, and can remember when books were only read on paper. For us, 2014 is most notable as the 20th anniversary of The Western Canon (as the Times also pointed out this weekend). Thus, we tend to react to things like Wattpad with mild terror and stern disapproval.  

But rather than putting on my angry Andy Rooney eyebrows and harrumphing, I’ll just let the evidence speak for itself. Here are a few key sections from the Times story:

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Sentence Shaming

Sentence Shaming

With a tiny bit of sleuthing, Isaac Fitzgerald has identified the unnamed “popular writer” whom the also-popular writer Lydia Davis disparages in her recent New Yorker profile. Turns out it’s Khaled Hosseini. In the profile, Davis is described as objecting to Hosseini’s use of mixed metaphors in sentences like “The unexpected intimacy he had stumbled upon in the hospital, so urgent and acute, has eroded into something dull.” Did you catch that? The problem, according to Davis, is that “eroded” is an earth metaphor, so it doesn’t jibe with “acute.”

9781594631764This kind of sentence-shaming—which we’ll define as close, critical reading for the purpose of arguing that a previously respected piece of writing is, linguistically and/or logically, nonsense—was recently used by Francine Prose in the New York Review of Books to call Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch a piece of crap. James Wood, the godfather of close reading (and of sentence-shaming) gave The Goldfinch a similar brush-off in the New Yorker, highlighting specific passages to show that Tartt’s writing is full of “flailing imprecision.” For instance: “My heart was pounding and my head swam.”

9780316055437Good writing should hold up under a microscope, as they say. But these are some pretty small microscopes. (Or large ones. Whichever ones magnify things the most.) Is it really a problem that Hosseini used “acute” and “eroded” in the same sentence? More importantly, is this the best criticism that we can level at writers like Hosseini and Tartt? Because their books have sold millions and millions of copies. They don’t seem ashamed.

- Brian Hurley

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A Constellation of Vital Phenomena?

FA Luminaries FA review tag

According to a seemingly sensible blog on astrology, Eleanor Catton was a shoe-in to win the 2013 Man Booker Prize for her second novel The Luminaries. Born in late September 1985 when the “Sun is conjunct Mercury in Libra,” Catton’s “destiny indicator” should have tipped off those making wagers at Ladbrokes that her “destiny based on prior life talents was about to blossom.”

It’s quite amazing when you think about it. Catton was born in 1985! And this is her second novel! The astrology stuff is pretty interesting too.

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Nation Loses its Shit Over Book

Knausgaard

Uff da! Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six-volume autobiography, My Struggle, is so popular that it’s wreaking social havoc across Europe, according to no less an expert on civil unrest than The Economist.

One in ten Norwegians have read some of the book, and companies have introduced “Knausgaard-free days” in order to keep people’s minds on work.

Put the pen down, Karl! Don’t you know that people in your country have TV shows about firewood to watch?

- Brian Hurley

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Here’s what a $5 sheet of paper looks like.

paper

People in Portland are making bespoke paper from scratch and selling it on Etsy.

Of course they are.

- Brian Hurley

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H. Jon Benjamin Narrates an Animated McSweeney’s Story

What do you get when you cross Archer, McSweeney’s, and an old-school video game?

This.

Yep, that’s H. Jon Benjamin (of Archer and Bob’s Burgers) narrating a story from The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency called “In Which I Fix My Girlfriend’s Grandparents’ Wi-Fi and Am Hailed as a Conquering Hero.”

God bless the Internet.

- Brian Hurley

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Shotgun Lovesongs Hits Shelves

Shotgun Lovesongs

Shotgun Lovesongs comes out today!

It’s a gritty, big-hearted novel about four childhood friends–a farmer, a financial trader, a rodeo rider, and a rock star–who reconvene in the small Wisconsin town where they grew up. Marriages are broken. Gunshots are fired. The tree of liberty is refreshed with the blood of Midwestern patriots and cheap beer.

We asked the author to share his thoughts on publication day.

Nickolas Butler: I would like to tell you that the definitive film of my youth was something heady and brutal, a brooding American cult classic like Reservoir Dogs or Miller’s Crossing.  And, in truth, I’ve seen both of those films probably dozens of times, though most between my 15th and 21st year; not so much in the last decade or so.  But the quintessential movie of my childhood and early teens might just be Wayne’s World, that goofball pure American Midwestern comic classic starring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey.  And if you’ve seen Wayne’s World, you might imagine the joy I felt when I discovered I would be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the publication date of my first novel, Shotgun Lovesongs.  If you’ve forgotten the connection between Wayne’s World and Wisconsin’s most populous city, allow Alice Cooper to refresh your memory:

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