On Novels and Novelists

Joyce Carol Oates: ‘People think I write quickly, but I actually don’t’

Joyce Carol Oates, often described as “America’s foremost woman of letters,” recently talked with writer Hermione Hoby for The Guardian. At age 77, Oates has written more than 100 books and has been a Pulitzer finalist five times.

What Hoby calls “a pronounced gothic streak” runs through much of Oates’s fiction. Hoby explains why by quoting a passage from the afterword to Oates’s 1994 collection Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque:

“We should sense immediately, in the presence of the grotesque, that it is both ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ simultaneously, as states of mind are real enough – emotions, moods, shifting obsessions, beliefs – though immeasurable. The subjectivity that is the essence of the human is also the mystery that divides us irrevocably from one another.”

Hoby says that Blonde, Oates’s fictionalization of Marilyn Monroe’s interior life, is often regarded as her best novel. My book club back in St. Louis read it several years ago and loved it. We also read and loved her novel We Were the Mulvaneys, which remains one of the most memorable books I’ve ever read.

Michael Connelly Chooses ‘The Long Goodbye’ for WSJ Book Club

Prominent mystery writer Michael Connelly has chosen Raymond Chandler’s novel The Long Goodbye for the Wall Street Journal Book Club. Connelly credits this book with launching his writing career. He was majoring in construction engineering in college when he saw Robert Altman’s 1973 film adaptation of the novel. He bought all of Chandler’s novels, read them back to back, then changed his major to journalism and creative writing.

Amazon Series: BOSCHAlthough Connelly has written some stand-alone novels, he is best known for his fictional detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch of the Los Angeles Police Department. The Bosch novels are the basis for Amazon’s series Bosch, starring Titus Welliver. The series’ second season will be released this year.

There’s a link in this article for joining the WSJ Book Club, but I think you have to be a subscriber of the paper to sign up.

Inside Lisa Genova’s medical best sellers

Lisa Genova was trained as a neuroscientist, but she has left that career behind to write full time. She self-published her first novel, Still Alice, and sold it out of her car trunk because she couldn’t land a literary agent or publisher. That book was eventually picked up by a major publisher, and Julianne Moore won an Oscar for her portrayal of the lead character in the film version.

Still Alice tells the story of a Harvard neuroscientist who develops early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. While most writing about Alzheimer’s features the point of view of care givers, Genova’s novel portrayed the experience of the patient. Genova has written three more books about neurological conditions: Love Anthony, about autism; Left Neglected, about traumatic brain injury; and Inside the O’Briens, about Huntington’s disease. Her next novel, she says, will be about ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

10 underrated novels from great authors

Sure, you’ve heard of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, but what about Pudd’nhead Wilson? Read about this less well known work of Mark Twain, along with underrated novels by the following writers as well:

Fyodor Dostoevsky
Cormac McCarthy
Haruki Murakami
Edgar Allan Poe
George Orwell
Stephen King
Graham Greene
James Salter
Richard Yates

J.K. Rowling reveals statue she marked after completing ’Harry Potter’

J.K. Rowling recently revealed on Twitter that she defaced a statue in her Balmoral hotel room after finishing the final volume in her Harry Potter series. See the evidence here.

A good sport about the whole thing, the Balmoral has renamed the room the J.K. Rowling Suite and protected the statue inside a glass case. This is certainly a case of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

Herman Wouk Says He’s A ‘Happy Gent’ At 100

Herman Wouk has written a lot of famous novels, including The Winds of War and The Caine Mutiny, which won a Pulitzer Prize. Now, at age 100, he’s issued a spiritual memoir, Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author.

It’s a memoir, he says, that “sums up what it means to be a writer.”

On Novels and Novelists

Julianne Moore on Forging a Bond With Alzheimer’s Patients

Cara Buckley reports on how Julianne Moore prepared for her role in the film of Still Alice, a performance that won her an Oscar for best actress. Moore played Alice Howland, a Harvard cognifive psychologist with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. (Early-onset Alzheimer’s is defined as onset before age 65.)

“Sill Alice” tells the story from Alice’s point of view. “This is very unusual,” Ms. Moore told the Bagger earlier this season in a phone interview, “because it’s from the inside out.” So, to know what having Alzheimer’s felt like, Ms. Moore said she dove into the world of people living with the disease.

With the help of Elizabeth Gelfand Stearns of the Alzheimer’s Association, Moore connected through Skype with women who had received diagnoses of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Moore also talked with a leading researcher at Mount Sinai Hospital and visited long-term-care facilities and support groups. One woman particularly affected Moore; although the woman could not speak, “she was beaming and clearly trying to connect”:

“That’s why it’s interesting that it’s called ‘Still Alice’ — this idea that your essential self does not disappear.”

Norman Mailer’s ‘Armies of the Night’ Set for Big Screen Adaptation

Norman Mailer‘s historical fact-based novel “The Armies of the Night” has been optioned for big screen adaptation by RadicalMedia.

Documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger will direct a film based on Norman Mailer’s book The Armies of the Night, about the march from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, to the gates of the Pentagon in protest of the Vietnam War. Mailer’s book won both a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

The film will be shot documentary style with actors performing scripted action interspersed with news footage from the event.

Producers also promise that the seminal rock and folk music from the era will play a significant role in the film.

“Today, as we find ourselves in a new time of protests on the streets, and tensions in the air, I couldn’t imagine a more relevant time to bring Mailer’s vision of civil disobedience to the big screen,” said Berlinger. “To achieve this in a style honoring the way Mailer put his story into words is an amazing opportunity for any filmmaker, and my own deep roots in the cinema-verite movement of the 1960’s makes this opportunity all the more exciting for me personally.”

Here Are The 10 Movies ‘Mad Men’ Cast & Crew Were Required To Watch

As the concluding season of Mad Men approaches, the show’s creator, Matthew Weiner, prepares a showing in New York City of 10 films that were required viewing for everyone who worked on the show. These films all made a deep impression on Weiner and influenced the creation of Mad Men.

Read Weiner’s own descriptions of why these movies, some of which are available on Netflix or Amazon Prime, were seminal influences on Mad Men:

1. THE APARTMENT
Dir. Billy Wilder. 1960, 125 mins. 35mm print courtesy of the Packard Humanities Institute Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. With Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine.

2. NORTH BY NORTHWEST
Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. 1959, 136 mins. 35mm. With Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint.

3. BLUE VELVET
Dir. David Lynch. 1987, 120 mins. 35mm. With Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper.

4. LES BONNES FEMMES
Dir. Claude Chabrol. 1960, 100 mins. 35mm. With Bernadette Lafont, Clotilde Joano, Stéphane Audran.

5. VERTIGO
Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. 1958, 128 mins. 35mm IB Technicolor print! With James Stewart, Kim Novak.

6. PATTERNS
Dir. Fielder Cook. 1956, 83 mins. 35mm. With Van Heflin, Everett Sloane, Ed Begley.

7. DEAR HEART
Dir. Delbert Mann. 1964, 114 mins. 35mm print courtesy of the Packard Humanities Institute Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. With Glenn Ford, Geraldine Page, Angela Lansbury.

8. THE BACHELOR PARTY
Dir. Delbert Mann. 1957, 92 mins. Digital projection. With Don Murray, E.G. Marshall, Jack Warden.

9. THE BEST OF EVERYTHING
Dir. Jean Negulesco. 1959, 121 mins. DCP. With Hope Lange, Stephen Boyd, Suzy Parker, Joan Crawford.

10. THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY
Dir. Arthur Hiller. 1964, 115 mins. 35mm. With James Garner, Julie Andrews, Melvyn Douglas.

Joanna Trollope: ’You cannot be great novelist until after 35’

At the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai, Joanna Trollope, age 71, advised writers:

“But I think in order to write good fiction, I think you need to have got a lot of living under your belt,” she said. “And that includes the pain as well as the joy.

”It’s a rather unkind thing to have to say, and I don’t mean it unkindly, but I always say to people you will write much better fiction after the age of 35 than before. Merely because life will have knocked you about a bit by then.

”I don’t mean it unlikely, I only mean it in terms of don’t be in a hurry.”

In this article Hannah Furness points out that some well known novelists fit Trollope’s description:

  • Alexander McCall Smith, who published his first book at age 50
  • Richard Adams, who wrote Watership Down at age 53

However, Furness points out, many authors contradict Trollope’s description:

  • Jack Kerouac and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who each wrote his first novel in his early 20s
  • Charles Dickens, who wrote Pickwick Papers at 26
  • William Shakespeare, who is believed to have written his first play at about age 25
  • Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein at 20

Nonetheless, Trollope said that it is essential for writers to learn to understand other people’s motivations and to understand that “the suffering of other people is not negligible.”

“What I try to do is get inside head after head after head,” she said.