Last Week’s Literary Links

10 Best Whodunits

I love a good mystery! Here mystery novelist John Verdon (his latest book is Wolf Lake, featuring NYPD homicide detective Dave Gurney) offers a list of “ten remarkable works, each of which has a special appeal to my whodunit mentality”:Cover: The Crossing by Michael Connelly

  1. Oedipus Rex by Sophocles
  2. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  3. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  4. The Galton Case by Ross Macdonald
  5. On Beulah Height by Reginald Hill
  6. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré
  7. Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith
  8. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
  9. Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indridason
  10. The Crossing by Michael Connelly

I love that he has included literary classics as well as classic mysteries. And since I’ve only read four of these books (numbers 1,2, 8, and 10), I have yet some more titles to add to my TBR list.

Where Lit-Fic and Horror Converge: Ten Literary Chillers

While researching horror literature I came across this article by writer Christopher Shultz. Shultz addresses the snobbish discrimination between literary fiction and genre fiction (such as horror) to end up with a chronological list of 10 novels and short stories that use horror elements (dark subject matter, entities of a sinister and often supernatural nature, a sense of dread and terror) while also achieving standard criteria of literary fiction (complex characters, existential questions, and elegant prose):

  1. ‘Frankenstein, Or The Modern Prometheus’ by Mary Shelley
  2. “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe
  3. “The Demon Lover” by Elizabeth Bowen
  4. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
  5. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates
  6. ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ by Ira Levin
  7. “The Companion” by Ramsey Campbell
  8. “The Paperhanger” by William Gay
  9. ‘Black Moon’ by Kenneth Calhoun
  10. ‘The Fever’ by Megan Abbot

I usually avoid horror, so I’ve only read three of these (numbers 1,2, and 4; and I’ve seen the film Rosemary’s Baby, if that counts). From Shultz’s descriptions I’m also thinking of adding numbers 5 and 10 to my TBR list.

SIX WRITERS ON THE GENIUS OF MARCEL PROUST

In honor of Marcel Proust’s 145th birthday on July 10, six current authors comment on why his work remains so important today. Contributing authors are Siri Hustvedt, Francine Prose, Edmund White, André Aciman, Aleksandar Hemon, and Daniel Mendelsohn.

The Failure of Language and A Dream of the West: An Interview with Bonnie Nadzam

Bryan Hurt interviews his friend Bonnie Nadzam, whom he describes as “someone who felt a dis-ease with conventional fiction and who sought to experiment and push against the boundaries of expectation and form.”

Nadzam is the author of two novels, Lamb (2011) and Lions (2016). Here are some of her statements about how and why she writes:

knowing a character is as complex a process as knowing myself. Both seem to involve a process of patience and observation, and of allowing space for unexpected things/motivations/behaviors to arise.

with Lions in particular, I did try to make the reader a character in this story, to the extent that the reader is tracking signs and assembling and telling stories alongside everyone else in the book. And everyone is mistaken; and also, by the end, everyone is also peculiarly exactly right.

I can’t just write fiction as though language were functioning and reliable. I also, however, don’t want to write heady philosophical fiction. So that means experimenting to find ways to drop into stories that are as unreliable as the language in which they’re written.

I suppose when I write fiction, it’s because there’s something I feel the need to express that I can’t get at intellectually.

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

2016 First Novel Prize Longlist

Longlist of finalists for the 2016 First Novel Prize

Source: 2016 First Novel Prize Longlist

Literary Findings from Around the Web

Liane Moriarty’s Favorite Books with Sudden Life-Changing Moments

truly madly guiltyIn Liane Moriarty’s seventh novel, Truly Madly Guilty, something terrible occurs at “an ordinary neighborhood barbecue in an ordinary neighborhood backyard.” It’s something so profound and unsettling, it seems to rewire the six adults and three children present; will any of them be able to recover the relative peace they enjoyed before? As the life-changing event is processed, friendships and marriages are tested and the adults are racked with guilt and regret. Moriarty is known for her compelling, tightly woven stories of the darkness that can lurk behind the apparently ordinary, the suspenseful secrets, catty rivalry, domestic dysfunction, and the shocking event that changes everything.

I’ve read only one of the five novels on her list. And I haven’t yet read any of Moriarty’s own novels. I need to put these books on my TBR list.

Was Philip K. Dick a Madman or a Mystic?

Even if you haven’t read any of Philip K. Dick’s books, you’ve probably come in contact with his work through movies or, to a lesser extent, television: Minority Report, The Man in the High Castle, Blade Runner, Total Recall, Screamers, The Adjustment Bureau.

Much of Dick’s visionary content followed an experience in which he believed that a spiritual force had unlocked his consciousness and given him access to esoteric knowledge. In this article Kyle Arnold, a psychologist at Coney Island Hospital, Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, and author of The Divine Madness of Philip K. Dick, describes this experience and how it affected the author and his work.

New Data Analysis Suggests Only Six Book Plots Exist

“There’s nothing new under the sun,” the saying goes. If you’ve ever felt this while reading a novel, you’ll be interested in this article.

Researchers from the Computational Story Lab at the University of Vermont in Burlington used sentiment analysis—or analysis of emotion in a string of words—to map the plot of over 1,700 works of fiction. By looking at how the emotional tone of a story changes from moment to moment, the researchers could see the overall emotional arc of the stories.

They found that there were six main ones:

Fall-rise-fall, like Oedipus Rex
Rise and then a fall, like what happens to most villains
Fall and then a rise, like what happens to most superheroes
Steady fall, like in Romeo and Juliet
Steady rise, like in a rags-to-riches story
Rise-fall-rise, like in Cinderella

Read the entire article to see the main grains of salt with which you should take these results.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Articles That Caught My Eye Last Week

LITERARY OR GENRE, IT’S THE PLOT THAT COUNTS

When you read a novel, which aspect of the fiction is more important to you, characterization or plot? This is a common question, yet for a long time now I’ve thought it’s not exactly the right question, or at least not the best way to look at fiction. The key issue isn’t a dichotomy—character vs. plot, one or the other—but rather the interaction between the two elements. People do certain things (plot) for their own personal reasons (character), and individuals (character) react to other people and to occurrences (plot) in their own unique ways. In this article Emily Barton discusses how she thought about plot while writing her latest novel, The Book of Esther. Despite the title of her essay (she chooses plot over character), much of what she says seems to me to involve the interaction between plot and character.

Women Are Writing the Best Crime Novels

Long-time mystery reader Terrence Rafferty admits:

A number of years ago—well before Gone Girl [2012]—I realized that most of the new crime fiction I was enjoying had been written by women. The guys had been all but run off the field by a bunch of very crafty girls, coming at them from everywhere: America (Megan Abbott, Alison Gaylin, Laura Lippman), England (Alex Marwood, Paula Hawkins, Sophie Hannah), Scotland (Val McDermid, Denise Mina), Ireland (Tana French), Norway (Karin Fossum), Japan (Natsuo Kirino).

He summarizes the appeal of such writers this way:

The female writers, for whatever reason (men?), don’t much believe in heroes, which makes their kind of storytelling perhaps a better fit for these cynical times. Their books are light on gunplay, heavy on emotional violence.

Reading Novels at Medical School

The reading of literature, particularly fiction and poetry, as a way to help medical personnel grapple with big questions such as the meaning of life and of death, and their own relationship to their profession, is generally known as medical humanities. In this article Daniel Marchalik, M.D., a urologist and head of the literature and medicine track at the Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC, describes a course he teaches “to foster habits of reflection over four years of medical school”:

On the surface, the assigned books have nothing to do with medicine. We read no patient narratives, doctors’ memoirs or stories about disease.

Our busy jobs on the hospital wards require precision and efficiency, but in literature class we can slow down and explore human lives and thoughts in a different, more complex way. The class is an anatomy lab of the mind. We examine cultural conventions and conflicting perspectives, and reflect on our own preconceived notions about life and work. Reading attentively and well, we hope, will become a sustaining part of our daily lives and practice.

12 Great Authors Pick Their Essential American Book

How many people do you know who are working on the Great American Novel? While we wait for them to finish, see which books these 12 authors choose as the essential American book:

  • Sherman Alexie
  • Julian Barnes
  • Teju Cole
  • Anne Korkeakivi
  • Amitava Kuman
  • Karan Mahajan
  • Jay McInerney
  • Jon Meacham
  • Ann Patchett
  • Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Jesmyn Ward
  • Joby Warrick

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Fall 2016 Adult Announcements: All Our Coverage

The editors have selected more than 700 adult titles for this feature (fall children’s announcements will appear in the July 18, 2016 issue) in anticipation of their attracting attention and, of course, generating sales. Our mission is to offer booksellers and librarians a helping hand in finding books to order and promote in the upcoming months, and to provide the industry with information that reflects our passion and experience.

Source: Fall 2016 Adult Announcements: All Our Coverage

You’ll find links here to titles in the following categories:

  • Art, Architecture, and Photography
  • Business and Economics
  • Comics and Graphic Novels
  • Cooking and Food
  • Essays and Literary Criticism
  • History
  • Lifestyle
  • Literary Fiction
  • Memoirs and Biographies
  • Mysteries and Thrillers
  • Poetry
  • Politics and Current Events
  • Romance and Erotica
  • Science
  • Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

Last Week’s Links

On Novels and Novelists

My 10 Favorite Books: Michael Cunningham

Author MIchael Cunningham lists the 10 (really 11) books he’d want with him if he were stranded on a deserted island.

The Author of ‘The Nest’ on How She Got Up the Courage to Write

the nestHere’s an interview with Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, author of the hit novel The Nest, which I read last month.

Sweeney decided to go back to school for an MFA in fiction writing at the age of 50. She’s currently writing the screenplay for the feature film version of her novel.

Grave Disruptions: Elizabeth Little interviews Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman is the New York Times –bestselling author of the Edgar Award–winning Tess Monaghan series and nine acclaimed standalone mysteries. A graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Lippman worked for 20 years as a reporter, including 12 at the Baltimore Sun.

Elizabeth Little interviews Laura Lippman, whose latest novel is the stand-alone mystery Wilde Lake.

Kurt Vonnegut Diagrams the Shape of All Stories in a Master’s Thesis Rejected by U. Chicago

“What has been my prettiest contribution to the culture?” asked Kurt Vonnegut in his autobiography Palm Sunday. His answer? His master’s thesis in anthropology for the University of Chicago, “which was rejected because it was so simple and looked like too much fun.” The elegant simplicity and playfulness of Vonnegut’s idea is exactly its enduring appeal. The idea is so simple, in fact, that Vonnegut sums the whole thing up in one elegant sentence: “The fundamental idea is that stories have shapes which can be drawn on graph paper, and that the shape of a given society’s stories is at least as interesting as the shape of its pots or spearheads.”

This piece, which features an infographic, also includes a short video of Vonnegut explaining his ideas. There are also links to other articles about Vonnegut.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Hackers are using this nasty text-message trick to break into people’s accounts

Watch out: That message might not be from who you think.

Source: Hackers are using this nasty text-message trick to break into people’s accounts

Earlier this week, Alex MacCaw, cofounder of data API company Clearbit, shared a screenshot of a text attempting to trick its way past two-factor authentication (2FA) on a Google account.

Please read this short article. It could save you a big headache.

Last Week’s Links

Recent Articles on Books, Authors, and All Things Literary

Seattle’s new Youth Poet Laureate has no home — but she does have a book deal

What a great local story about the power of the human spirit—and of the written word. The judges were unaware of Angel Gardner’s background and current living situation when they chose her to be Seattle’s Youth Poet Laureate:

Gardner’s poems — explicit and raw on matters of race, homelessness and abuse — “feel urgent when you read them, in a way that seems important for folks to pay attention to,” said one of the judges, Aaron Counts.

Please read this story and pass it on.

‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ Begins Previews in London, as Magic Continues

So you thought we’d seen the last of Harry Potter? NOT!

Here were a host of memorable characters, many of them making what amount to quick cameo appearances, much as a star might drop into a movie for a few minutes. Here were a second generation of new characters, including Scorpius, the unexpectedly delightful son of the decidedly undelightful Draco Malfoy, and of course the troubled Albus [Harry’s son], whose adolescent struggles to make sense of himself, his friends and his family form the focus of the play.

10 Literary Terms to Impress (or Annoy) Your Friends

An interesting graphic, even if it does perpetuate an inaccuracy that is one of my pet peeves.

To wit: in medias res, which isn’t even spelled correctly here. It’s also not defined quite correctly, but that’s a common mistake. Just about every literary handbook in the world tells you that this Latin phrase means “in the middle of things.” Except that it doesn’t; it means “into the middle of things.”

A book that begins in medias res throws readers into the middle of things, right into the action, where they must quickly figure out what’s going on.

Does Literary Criticism Have a Grade Inflation Problem?

I reported on the introduction of Lit Hub’s Book Marks here. When I took my first look at the site, which assigns letter grades to books on the basis of published reviews, I thought that the grades looked high.

Alex Shephard, writing for The New Republic, has the same impression:

Lit Hub uses an A-F grading system. But none of the books are remotely in danger of flunking.

The reviews themselves have been pulled from 70 publications, including The New Republic, but only a few have been graded below a B-

Shephard looks at the state of literary criticism—and there are a lot of informative links in the article—before concluding that “literary criticism, like America’s universities, is suffering from severe grade inflation.”

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

BAILEYS Women’s Prize for Fiction » Announcing the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction winner

On Wednesday 8th June 2016 at the Clore Ballroom, Southbank Centre, London, Irish author Lisa McInerney was announced the winner of the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction for her debut novel The Glorious Heresies.

Source: BAILEYS Women’s Prize for Fiction » Announcing the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction winner

Books on the short list.

Introducing Book Marks, Lit Hub’s “Rotten Tomatoes” for Books | Literary Hub

Book Marks will showcase critics from the most important and active outlets of literary journalism in America, aggregating reviews from over 70 sources—newspapers, magazines, and websites—and averaging them into a letter grade, as well as linking back to their source. Each book’s cumulative grade functions as both a general critical assessment, and, more significantly, as an introduction to a range of voices.

Source: Introducing Book Marks, Lit Hub’s “Rotten Tomatoes” for Books | Literary Hub

I’m still checking this out. Let us know what you think about this new service in the comments.