Last Week’s Links

THE BEST BOOK DATABASE YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF

Abby Hargreaves talks about Novelist, a database that librarians use to recommend books to patrons. This database, which may be available to you through your local library’s web site, is especially good for finding recommendations on what to read next if you liked a particular book and would like to read more similar to it.

While NoveList only organizes fiction, there’s a companion database called NoveList Plus that includes nonfiction, too.

The Thing About Families and Thriller Writing

Because I love thrillers, I read a lot of descriptions of books in that genre. Here, thriller novelist David Bell explains why some many of those descriptions contain two elements: families and secrets.

It’s true that we thriller writers often exaggerate the problems and secrets that families deal with. Most families don’t experience murder, kidnapping, extortion, disappearance. (Some do, of course.) But so many times those wild, exaggerated crimes that occur in a thriller start with something small. Something ordinary. A secret kept. A promise broken. The smallest splash becomes a tidal wave.

And he offers a possible explanation of why readers love thrillers so much: “When they see the disasters that happen to fictional characters on a page, they feel relieved.” No matter how messed up our own family members might be, most of them are nowhere near as bad as the characters that inhabit the latest  best seller.

Look, Read, Listen—What’s the Difference?

I’ve always insisted that listening to an audiobook “counts” as having read the book as long as you listen to the unabridged version. But in this piece author Betsy Robinson argues differently: “ audiobooks and books are as different as movies and books.”

A former playwright now turned novelist, Robinson believes that audio productions minimize “the value of the direct relationship between books and readers.” I agree with her analysis of the reading process, called reader-response theory or transactional reading, and I therefore agree with her in the case of people who fall asleep while listening or are “missing whole paragraphs when one of the kids spills his Cheerios.” Since I no longer have a child whose eating requires monitoring, I’m seldom distracted in that way. But if I do miss a chunk of the recording, I back track until I get back to something I remember, then relisten.

And for that reason, I will continue to include unabridged audiobooks in my yearly count of books read.

We Should All Be Reading Ancient Poetry Right Now

Here’s something we classics major have always known:

There is nothing like ancient poetry for making you reassess your priorities. Homer, Virgil, and Ovid can make you feel small and insignificant, but those feelings tend to pass and are worth enduring for the clarity they bring to the bigger picture. If you only let them in, the poets of ancient Greece and Rome can bring the kind of life you are living and person you want to be into sharper focus. They are surprisingly adept at cutting through the noise of modern life.

Books: Loeb Classical Library
Loeb Classical Library

How Does a Novelist Write About a School Shooting?

Cover: Empire FallsOne of the most memorable novels I’ve ever read is Richard Russo’s Empire Falls, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. The novel contains a school shooting, which most people assume was based on the 1999 high school shooting in Littleton, CO. Russo explains that he finished the book’s manuscript before the Colorado shooting and that, in fact, the fictional incident was based on a shooting in Paducah, KY, that occurred in 1997.

But, Russo continues, which event formed the basis for the novel’s plot is not important. Once such an event has occurred, it’s nearly impossible for writers NOT to incorporate it into their work:

as I wrote and revised the novel, . . [e]ach day became an exercise in magical thinking: If I could face the worst of my fears on the page, maybe I’d be spared in real life. I didn’t want to write the story, but how could I not?

Because, Russo writes:

And yet it’s novels we turn to for a deeper understanding of life than we get from politicians and others with ideological axes to grind, which is why some other novelist (probably thinking, How can I not?) is no doubt at work on a book that centers on a school shooting. Every day she sets about her horrifying task, trying to imagine, What if one of the dead kids in Parkland was mine? Could I go on? What would my mission in life become after life as I knew it ceased to exist? Questions like these drive novelists, not because we have answers, but because we don’t. All we have is moral imagination, which, over time, can help heal wounds but also has a nasty habit of opening them, as my novel did and continues to do.

That novelist currently writing is in an even more anxiety-ridden spot that he was because “such tragedies have become commonplace.” And also because:

As a nation, we have not decided that our children are more important than our guns, and any new novel on the subject will have to address that tectonic shift. We’ve changed. Our nation has changed.

Writing about all this, as Russo does here, is an act of tremendous bravery for which he deserves our gratitude.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

V.S. Naipaul, Nobel Prize-winning author, dies at 85, family says

Source: V.S. Naipaul, Nobel Prize-winning author, dies at 85, family says

Last Week’s Links

Hunter S. Thompson and the Sanity of Writers

A short appreciation of writer Hunter S. Thompson, who often claimed to have done much of his writing “half out of his skull,” under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

This link is worth clicking just to see the illustrations.

THE GENERATION THAT GREW UP ON STEPHEN KING IS TAKING HIM BACK

Stephen KingRandall Colburn celebrates the fact that directors who grew up as fans of Stephen King’s work are now bringing his work to both the big and the little screen. Colburn says of this renaissance:

Credit its origins with the commercial success of CBS’s Under the Dome, the critical acclaim of Hulu’s 11/22/63, or the clear homage emanating from Netflix’s Stranger Things, but it was last year’s seismic It that truly catapulted King back onto the A-list. In its first weekend, Andy Muschietti’s adaptation had the best September opening of all-time, the best opening ever for a Stephen King adaptation, and the best opening for any R-rated horror movie.

Colburn says that earlier film adaptations of King’s works placed more importance on those works’ covers—the King name—than their contents. But the current renaissance aims at the truth of King’s world:

But ask any Constant Reader [King’s term his for diehard fans] and they’ll tell you the same thing: They don’t just read King to get scared. They read him for the characters, the settings, the story.

One of the products of this King renaissance is Hulu’s series Castle Rock, based on the King universe. Colburn mentions the series, and you can read a more focused review of it here.

A Crime Writer’s Guide to Writing About Death and Murder

As the article title suggests, novelist Owen Hill’s piece is directed toward crime writers. But I often find articles directed toward writers useful for readers as well, since the advice given to writers can help readers understand what effects authors are aiming for and what techniques they’re using to create those effects.

For example, Hill writes:

What’s your approach? I think it’s best to start with an understanding of the reader’s expectations. Mysteries aren’t poetry or experimental prose. They are audience oriented. Who are you trying to reach? Is the body in the next room discovered off stage, or described in great detail? Is the narrator at the scene? Do you jump right in, like Chester Himes’s Real Cool Killers, (“The little knifeman slashed his throat and severed his red tie neatly just below the knot”)? Or do you use some version of the “body in the library” cliché? Do you want to subvert the rules of the genre, or go with the flow?

After all, “The mystery novel is perhaps the only place where we can have fun with violent death.”

How Finland Rebranded Itself as a Literary Country

Before 2007, Finland’s global notoriety came from Nokia phones. But when Apple’s iPhone rang Nokia’s death knell, “the Finns set out as a nation to find the ‘next Nokia.’”

They found their next branded product in literary fiction:

“Finnish literature had matured to a point where it could reach international readers,” said Tiia Strandén, director of FILI, the Finnish Literature Exchange, a not-for-profit organization that has promoted Finnish writing abroad for more than forty years. Strandén credited Oksanen for opening foreign publishers’ eyes to what Finnish literature could do.

The Book That Terrified Neil Gaiman. And Carmen Maria Machado. And Dan Simmons.

We asked 13 authors to recommend the most frightening books they’ve ever read. Here’s what they chose.

I’ve read several of the books listed here, but a few I had never even heard of.

Are you brave enough to add some of these titles to your reading list?

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

I’ve come across lots of interesting stuff lately.

When a Stranger Decides to Destroy Your Life

I’m including this article on all my blogs this week because it’s important that everyone with any online presence, no matter how small, read it.

50 MUST-READ CONTEMPORARY ESSAY COLLECTIONS

From Book Riot’s Liberty Hardy:

To prove that there are a zillion amazing essay collections out there, I compiled 50 great contemporary essay collections, just from the last 18 months alone. Ranging in topics from food, nature, politics, sex, celebrity, and more, there is something here for everyone!

LIGHTHEARTED BOOKS TO READ WHEN LIFE IS HARD

Sometimes a book like this is exactly what we need. From Book Riot’s Heather Bottoms:

When I’m feeling worn down, reading is a much-needed escape and comfort, but I need a book that is less emotionally taxing. I don’t want to be blindsided by a heart-wrenching death, intense family trauma, or weighty subject matter. What I need is a palate cleanser, lighthearted books to help me decompress a bit and provide a happy diversion. Here are some of my favorites. These lighthearted books are charming, soothing, funny, warm-hearted, and just the break you need when life is hard.

The Best Movies of 2018 (So Far)

Esquire offers its top–20 list of this year’s movies, some of which are based on books. I have seen exactly zero of these and hadn’t even heard of many on the list.

What about you? How many of these have you seen? Are they as good as presented here?

SALMAN RUSHDIE: MY NEW BOOK KNEW TRUMP WOULD WIN — EVEN THOUGH I DIDN’T

OZY interviews Salman Rushdie.

DONALD TRUMP DOESN’T APPEAR IN YOUR NEWEST NOVEL, THE GOLDEN HOUSE … BUT YOU’VE SAID HE WAS PART OF THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE CHARACTER OF THE JOKER.

Rushdie: It tries to do that risky thing of writing about the exact moment the book is written in. There isn’t anybody called Donald Trump in the book. But it occurred to me that in a deck of playing cards, there are only two cards that behave badly: One of them is the trump and the other is the joker. I thought, if I can’t have the Trump, I’ll have the Joker. He becomes my stand-in for Trump.

Famous writers and their vices: why we can’t get enough of them

Whether it’s Hemingway or F Scott Fitzgerald, we relish writers stepping into their pages

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

The Classics Spin #18

The Classics Spin #18

I love these Classics Spins because they get me reading the books on my list when I might otherwise avoid them.

Here’s how it works: I list 20 books here that I have yet to read from my original list of 50+ classics. On Wednesday, August 1, the Classics Club will announce a number, and I have to read whatever book on my list has that number.

So here’s my list:

  1. Masters, Edgar Lee. Spoon River Anthology (1915)
  2. Agee, James. A Death in the Family
  3. Wilson, Sloan. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
  4. Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men
  5. Cather, Willa. O Pioneers!
  6. James, Henry. What Maisie Knew
  7. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice
  8. Fowles, John. The French Lieutenant’s Woman
  9. Tarkington, Booth. The Magnificent Ambersons
  10. Lewis, Sinclair. Babbit
  11. Styron, William. Darkness Visible (1990)
  12. Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment
  13. Hardy, Thomas. Far From the Madding Crowd
  14. Adams, Richard. Watership Down
  15. Hemingway, Ernest. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  16. O’Neill, Eugene. The Iceman Cometh
  17. James, Henry. The Beast in the Jungle
  18. Pym, Barbara. Excellent Women
  19. Nabokov, Vladimir. Pnin
  20. Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway

 

Update

And the winning number is . . . 9! So I get to read The Magnificent Ambersons this month.

And here’s something weird: Right after I posted my list of 20, I thought, “I hope The Magnificent Ambersons number comes up.” And it did! What are the chances of that happening? (Yes, I know it’s one in 20, but I like to think of it as a wonderful synchronicity, a reward from the universe allowing me to do what I wanted to do anyway.)

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Missing Malcolm X Writings, Long a Mystery, Are Sold – The New York Times

The title page for an unpublished manuscript related to Malcolm X’s autobiography, one of several long-rumored fragments that were sold on Thursday.CreditJeenah Moon for The New York Times By Jennifer Schuessler July 26, 2018 16 For a quarter century, they have been the stuff of myth among scholars: three missing chapters from “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” reputedly cut from the manuscript after his assassination in 1965 because they were deemed too incendiary.

Source: Missing Malcolm X Writings, Long a Mystery, Are Sold – The New York Times

Last Week’s Links

What I’ve been reading around the web recently.

Can Reading Make You Happier?

Claude Monet, painted by Renoir (1872)
Claude Monet, painted by Renoir (1872)

An interesting history of bibliotherapy, or the use of reading to help “people deal with the daily emotional challenges of existence.”

For all avid readers who have been self-medicating with great books their entire lives, it comes as no surprise that reading books can be good for your mental health and your relationships with others, but exactly why and how is now becoming clearer, thanks to new research on reading’s effects on the brain.

A Summer Reading List of Contemporary Books by Women

If reading more books by women is one of your 2018 reading challenges, this list is meant for you. It contains both fiction and nonfiction titles.

The Odd Literary Paraphernalia of the New York Public Library’s Berg Collection

A lock of Walt Whitman’s hair, Jack Kerouac’s boots, and Virginia Woolf’s cane are just a few of the items available to inspect at the eclectic Berg Collection—if you have an appointment.

In Order to Understand Sociopaths, I Got Inside One’s Head

Carola Lovering’s potent debut novel, Tell Me Lies, tells the story of the complicated relationship between college freshman Lucy Albright and charming sociopath Stephen DeMarco. While alternating Stephen and Lucy’s points of view, Lovering depicts how Lucy’s depression drives her codependency. Stephen’s sections show his remorseless Machiavellian sensibilities: unable to genuinely feel affection, he studies people in order to learn how to act normal and get what he wants. Lovering discusses the capability of inhabiting another person’s mind in fiction.

Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2018 Book Preview

The Millions shares news about new books being released in the second half of 2018, July-December.

We’ve got new novels by Kate Atkinson, Dale Peck, Pat Barker, Haruki Murakami, Bernice McFadden, and Barbara Kingsolver. We’ve got a stunning array of debut novels, including one by our very own editor, Lydia Kiesling—not to mention R.O. Kwon, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Crystal Hana Kim, Lucy Tan, Vanessa Hua, Wayétu Moore, and Olivia Laing. We’ve got long-awaited memoirs by Kiese Laymon and Nicole Chung. Works of nonfiction by Michiko Kakutani and Jonathan Franzen. The year has been bad, but the books will be good.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

100 Books to Read Before You Die

When you find yourself not knowing what book to pick up next, here’s a list that contains “a mix of modern fiction, true stories, and timeless classics.”

The deep roots of writing

Was writing invented for accounting and administration or did it evolve from religious movements, sorcery and dreams?

Writers to Watch Fall 2018: Anticipated Debuts

This fall’s collection of promising debuts features problem children, supernatural freedom fighters, captive mermaids, mad scientists, righteous vigilantes, and, last but not least, a narrating dog.

I used to stay away from narrating dogs, but a recent reading of The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein may have changed my mind—or at least opened it a bit.

Attention, Please: Anne Tyler Has Something to Say

A look at the life of one of my favorite authors.

“Every time I begin a book I think this one is going to be completely different, and then it isn’t,” Tyler said. “I would like to have something new and different, but have never had the ambition to completely change myself. If I try to think of some common thread, I really think I’m deeply interested in endurance. I don’t think living is easy, even for those of us who aren’t scrounging. It’s hard to get through every day and say there’s a good reason to get up tomorrow. It just amazes me that people do it, and so cheerfully. The clearest way that you can show endurance is by sticking with a family. It’s easy to dump a friend, but you can’t so easily dump a brother. How did they stick together, and what goes on when they do? — all those things just fascinate me.”

STRONG WOMEN ARE TAKING OVER THE THRILLER

Novelist Cristina Alger offers a list of novels that present the kind of modern heroine she’s looking for:

I find the collective lack of strong, tough, reliable heroines depressing. Are unreliable women the only women we want to read about? And why do so many female authors choose to focus on them? I’m not asking for female protagonists to be perfect. But I would like to see more fictional women who have a true sense of agency, intelligence and guts—women with the same characteristics we’ve come to expect from the male heroes of traditional thrillers.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

John Irving, The Art of Fiction No. 93

I’m not a twentieth-century novelist, I’m not modern, and certainly not postmodern. I follow the form of the nineteenth-century novel; that was the century that produced the models of the form. I’m old-fashioned, a storyteller. I’m not an analyst and I’m not an intellectual.

WHICH BOOKS DO FAMOUS AUTHORS READ AND RECOMMEND MOST?

OR, HOW TO READ LIKE YOUR FAVORITE WRITERS

By examining 68 lists made by famous authors of books they love, Emily Temple has produced lists of the most recommended books and the most recommended authors.

SIX LATIN AMERICAN NOVELS THAT ARE PUSHING BOUNDARIES

Because it’s important to look at literature of other countries besides our own.

Today’s real Latin America is vibrant, raucous, infinitely complex and furiously engaged with the cultural and sociopolitical effects of globalization. In terms of literature, it’s an epicenter of innovation, where the gaze is reversed, boundaries explode and the possibilities of our collective past, present and future are boldly reimagined. Here are six contemporary Latin American novels — all of them slim, all of them brilliant, all of them blowing up boundaries of culture, gender, genre, aesthetics or reality.

The Sublime Horror of Choice

I don’t like horror novels, but if you do, this interview is for you.

Each recent book of Tremblay’s seems to me to take on a subgenre of the horror genre. He both explores it and puts pressure on it to see if he can make it do something new. Paul is anything but a complacent writer — rather than resting on his laurels, he offers work that is consistently new and unique.

Gillian Flynn Isn’t Going to Write the Kind of Women You Want

In a conversation with fellow novelist Megan Abbott, the Sharp Objects writer discusses the female rage that powered her 2006 debut novel—and has since taken over Hollywood.

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Author Gillian Flynn on “Sharp Objects”

The HBO adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel Sharp Objects begins tonight (July 8, 2018).

“To me,” she says, “Sharp Objects is a Western. The gunslinger goes back to his town to discover it’s been taken over by the bad guys. And she’s gotta get rid of all the bad stuff. The gunslinger who’s arrived to fix everything.”

–Source: Gillian Flynn Isn’t Going to Write the Kind of Women You Want