Chad Harbach, the editor and introducer of MFA vs NYC, calls his book a “jointly written novel” whose “composite heroine is the fiction writer circa 2014.” What better way to empathize with the composite heroine of this jointly written novel than to read her adventures in the year in which she lives and breathes and, hopefully, still writes? So the first thing I felt upon cracking MFA vs NYC in Istanbul, 5,628 miles away from Iowa and 5,014 from NYC, circa 2014, was a sense of freshness and immediacy. I associate those feelings with social media rather than books, and TV shows like Girls rather than essay collections on creative writing. This sense of newness was surprising, given that Harbach’s essay, which gives the book its title and kickstarts its central discussion, was published in 2010.
Although some of its material is a few years old, this is no book for old men. Nor is it written by them, but for one notable exception. The pieces in the book are concerned with a fresh question that most young-to-middle-aged English-speaking writers of our era are presumably asking themselves a lot: How should a fiction-writing person be in the world of American fiction, which seems profoundly divided between a university-based creating writing workshops culture, and a New York-based publishing and freelancing-until-the-moment-of-success-arrives culture?
So maybe this week was not the best week to talk smack about fantasy novels being serialized online.
Yesterday, George R.R. Martin released a chapter of the next installment in the Song of Ice and Fire series (or the Game of Thrones books, if you’re not being a jerk about it). The next book, The Winds of Winter, is due out God-knows-when, but for now, stop working and read this chapter, titled “Mercy.” Heads up: You should probably be ready for any spoilers it might contain. This is your official warning.
Finally, it looks like winter is coming — in a good way. Hopefully it won’t take too long.
For now, we’re re-posting this important message:
- Michael Moats
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
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:
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.”
This 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.”
Good 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
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.
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
People in Portland are making bespoke paper from scratch and selling it on Etsy.
Of course they are.
- Brian Hurley