This post introduces a new feature, Monday Miscellany, a conglomeration of intriguing literary items that have found their way to my monitor.
In The New York Times, David Carr reviews ‘There Are Things I Want You to Know’ About Stieg Larsson and Me, by Eva Gabrielsson. Gabrielsson is the woman who lived for 32 years with Swedish Stieg Larsson, author of the enormously popular Millennium Trilogy: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
Famous only in death, Larsson was a fervent feminist, an author of numerous books and articles about right-wing Swedish extremism, and a socialist to his core. As Gabrielsson explains, much of his life’s work was embodied in Expo, a small political magazine that struggled to stay afloat. The crime novels were “like therapy,” she writes. “He was describing Sweden the way it was and the way he saw the country: the scandals, the oppression of women, the friends he cherished and wished to honor.”
On July 2 NPR marked the 50th anniversary of Ernest Hemingway’s death by suicide.
Ernest Hemingway was 61 years old. He was a boxer, a boozer, a philanderer and big-game hunter who wrote some of the most sublime prose of the English language: short, sharp, piercing sentences that told stories about soldiers, lovers, hunters, bravery, fear and death.
Writer Roger Rosenblatt believes that “writing makes life occasionally beautiful, nearly tolerable.”
As a writer, you create characters who act differently than you ever supposed, circumstances that change shape and direction, sentences that seem to emerge from a trance. Ideas occur to you that you never knew you had, opinions you never knew you held. Only reluctantly do you concede that the mystery must eventually get hold of itself, and come to order.
And he says that writers are in cahoots with readers:
A nice conspiracy is afoot here, as readers, too, revel in mystery. Writers get better at the craft once we learn to assume that the reader will do much of the work for us, filling in the blanks with their own experiences and lives. Plant a few key pieces of evidence, and your reader will dream up the connections.
“All writers are mystery writers,” Rosenblatt declares.
There is an underlying purpose to a writer’s detective work, I believe, which has to do with catching bad guys. I know this may sound like an extravagant claim, corny too, but I think that we writers enjoy tromping around in the murky zones of good and evil, right and wrong, justice and injustice, so that in the long run, we may settle on the good, the right and the just. . . . we want to rescue our reader-clients, however surprised we may be to rediscover our innocent sense of honor every time we string words together.
And isn’t that exactly why we read?
In a poll of librarians, teachers, publishers and authors, the trade magazine Publisher’s Weekly asked for a list of the best children’s books ever published in the United States. Hands down, the No. 1 book was E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. Now, a new book called The Story of Charlotte’s Web explores how White’s masterpiece came to be.
In this talk delivered during the 2010 Book Expo America conference, science fiction writer William Gibson muses that the best science fiction is always about the time when it was written. And here’s how he describes the relationship between authors, books, and readers:
A book exists at the intersection of the author’s subconscious and the reader’s response. An author’s career exists in the same way. A writer worries away at a jumble of thoughts, building them into a device that communicates, but the writer doesn’t know what’s been communicated until it’s possible to see it communicated.