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.”

2 News Tidbits for Today

I was excited to read that CBS is bringing to life yet another Star Trek series. When I stopped in at Twitter, I was surprised to see that lots of other people were excited about it, too.

My husband and I were avid fans of the original series Star Trek. We watched the reruns so many times that as soon as the episode began, we’d tell each other the plot and recite the episode’s most memorable lines. I wrote earlier that we had visited Star Trek: The Exhibition at the Washington State Fair.

Star Trek: The Next GenerationDespite our love for the original series, we had not kept up with all the subsequent related TV shows, although we did see all the movies. Our visit to the exhibition got us started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix, although we’re still in the first season.

So yes, I was excited to read about a new installment of the Star Trek franchise. The Atlantic covers the announcement of the new show here. According to this article, “Come January 2017, CBS says, the new show will be the backbone of its subscription-only ‘All Access’ service.”

And that’s the catch: The show will be available only on CBS All Access, the network’s subscription streaming service. All Access currently allows access to more than 7,500 episodes of CBS shows, both past and present, including the various Star Trek series. The service now costs $5.99 a month.

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I love mystery novels because the best of them probe the depths of the human heart and mind. And one of my favorite mystery novelists is Michael Connelly.

Amazon Series: BOSCHWhen Amazon Prime developed a series around Connelly’s most famous character, L.A. homicide detective Harry Bosch, I was reservedly excited. If the shows were well done, they could be great; but if they weren’t well done, I’d be terribly disappointed to see one of my favorite literary characters trashed. I’m delighted to report that the first season of Amazon’s series Bosch succeeded in presenting Bosch as he is in Connelly’s books. The choice of Titus Welliver to portray the detective was a stroke of genius: He truly channelled Harry Bosch.

This morning in my daily journey around the social media universe I came across this article on the web site of Michael Koryta. Koryta says he has known Michael Connelly for many years, since an editor to whom Koryta had submitted a novel manuscript gave him this advice on plotting:

“Re-read Michael Connelly to see how it’s done right.” I re-read them and I’d urge any would-be crime writer to do the same. I’d urge anyone who simply enjoys reading good fiction to try Michael’s work.

Embedded in this article I found this bit of good news: “Season 2 of BOSCH is coming off a smashing success of a debut season.” Now I’m eagerly awaiting the announcement that the new episodes are available for streaming. I hope Amazon puts them all up at once, because this is one series that deserves binge streaming.

Cover: The Crossing by Michael ConnellyBosch is a cop with a complex moral compass, the crux of which is the mantra “everybody matters or nobody matters.” One of Connelly’s other recurring characters is Mickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer, who defends the sleaziest criminals as long as they can afford to pay him. Bosch and Haller happen to be half-brothers, a fact that Bosch didn’t find out until well into his adult life.

In Connelly’s latest novel, The Crossing, Harry Bosch has retired from the police force; he teams up with Haller in defense of Haller’s client, but not without feeling that he has crossed over to the dark side. The Crossing has already been released in the U.K. Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, and will be released in the U.S.A. and Canada tomorrow (November 3, 2015). I’ve already preordered my copy.

(Photo of BOSCH production studio at top of post
from michaelconnelly.com)