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Monday Miscellany

How Literature Saved My Psyche: Attending a Book-Themed Therapy Session at the Center for Fiction

Just read this. That is all.

Nicholas Royle’s top 10 first novels

Clever Nicholas Royle:

First Novel, my seventh, is all about first novels (and other stuff). My narrator, a creative writing tutor, tries to help students write their debuts while struggling with his own second novel. Meanwhile he pores over photos of writers’ rooms in a certain newspaper searching for validation in the form of a glimpse of his own first novel on someone else’s shelves.

Here are his top 10 first novels, listed alphabetically by author:

  1. Pharricide by Vincent De Swarte
  2. Days Between Stations by Steve Erickson
  3. The Blindfold by Siri Hustvedt
  4. The Horned Man by James Lasdun
  5. A Dandy in Aspic by Derek Marlowe
  6. The Lighthouse by Alison Moore
  7. Mystery Story by David Pirie
  8. Vault by David Rose
  9. Quilt by Nicholas Royle
  10. The Tenant by Roland Topor

Free College-Level Writing & Literature Classes

GalleyCat provides links to “nine college-level writing classes, offerings ranging from science fiction to writing to mythology” offered through the new consortium Coursera.

Just Saying “Yes”: Joyce Carol Oates

Here’s an interesting sketch of prolific author Joyce Carol Oates, who will turn 75 in June.

Oates, who has been called a quintessentially American author, grew up in upstate New York, one of three children of a factory worker and a housewife; she was the first of her family to graduate from high school and she writes out of a kind of homesickness for the farms, fields, and creeks of that place. Some of Oates’s most memorable novels have strong female characters—The Grave Digger’s Daughter and Mudwoman, to name two. “I sometimes conflate myself and my [paternal] grandmother and/or my mother. I put generations together,” she says. Though violence is a frequent theme in Oates’s work, she says she grew up on the “periphery” of it, never experiencing it herself. Her great-grandfather, however, killed himself in front of her grandmother and intended to take the child’s life as well. Oates’s mother, Carolina, was abandoned when she was young. Oates learned about the experience when O, the Oprah Magazine approached her and other women writers to interview their mothers for an article. Oprah, whom Oates calls “an American original,” had chosen We Were the Mulvaneys as her book club selection, and so Oates agreed to do the piece. Her mother, well into her 80s at the time, had never before spoken about her past, and she wept as she told Oates by telephone how her biological mother had given her away, that “she didn’t want her”.