Last Week's Links On Novels and Novelists

Last Week’s Links

On Novels and Novelists

My 10 Favorite Books: Michael Cunningham

Author MIchael Cunningham lists the 10 (really 11) books he’d want with him if he were stranded on a deserted island.

The Author of ‘The Nest’ on How She Got Up the Courage to Write

the nestHere’s an interview with Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, author of the hit novel The Nest, which I read last month.

Sweeney decided to go back to school for an MFA in fiction writing at the age of 50. She’s currently writing the screenplay for the feature film version of her novel.

Grave Disruptions: Elizabeth Little interviews Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman is the New York Times –bestselling author of the Edgar Award–winning Tess Monaghan series and nine acclaimed standalone mysteries. A graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Lippman worked for 20 years as a reporter, including 12 at the Baltimore Sun.

Elizabeth Little interviews Laura Lippman, whose latest novel is the stand-alone mystery Wilde Lake.

Kurt Vonnegut Diagrams the Shape of All Stories in a Master’s Thesis Rejected by U. Chicago

“What has been my prettiest contribution to the culture?” asked Kurt Vonnegut in his autobiography Palm Sunday. His answer? His master’s thesis in anthropology for the University of Chicago, “which was rejected because it was so simple and looked like too much fun.” The elegant simplicity and playfulness of Vonnegut’s idea is exactly its enduring appeal. The idea is so simple, in fact, that Vonnegut sums the whole thing up in one elegant sentence: “The fundamental idea is that stories have shapes which can be drawn on graph paper, and that the shape of a given society’s stories is at least as interesting as the shape of its pots or spearheads.”

This piece, which features an infographic, also includes a short video of Vonnegut explaining his ideas. There are also links to other articles about Vonnegut.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

On Novels and Novelists

On Novels and Novelists

A Little Life author Hanya Yanagihara: ’Writing can be lonely’

In an article for the U.K. publication Telegraph, Hanya Yanagihara discusses her life and the books that have influenced her:

My first book, The People in the Trees, took 18 years to write, largely because there were years when I wrote nothing. But A Little Life took just 18 months: I was very disciplined. When you’re in the zone of the book you want to stay there – it’s simply about finding time.

Writing can be lonely but it’s a wonderful kind of aloneness. I often reach a point where the world I am creating seems more vivid than the world I occupy.


I’m a big fan of mystery and crime novels, so I couldn’t pass up a list by the godfather of crime writing himself:

Each month, I’ll be recommending five works of mystery/crime/suspense fiction, new or old, with no agenda other than to share a distillation of more than a half-century of avid reading in this most distinguished literary category.

This is Penzler’s list from March. If you click his linked name at the top of the page, you’ll be taken to a page with a link to his April list.


the nest

Each time a new book gets snatched up for a lot of money, its author winds up getting a lot of attention. This year’s spokesmodel is Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, whose debut novel The Nest was won by Ecco in a hot auction; Sweeney walked away with seven figures. Since her story is about a family inheritance, it’s kind of wonderful that she now has a nest egg of her own.

Sweeney, 55, recently earned an MFA from Bennington College. Although she now lives in Los Angeles with her family, she spent 27 years in New York City, the setting of her novel. She majored in journalism in college, then took a job in corporate communications.

Among other revelations in this interview, you’ll find out which fiction authors have most influenced her.


In 2014, Phil Klay published Redeployment, his collection of short stories set in and about the war in Iraq. Each of the twelve short stories looks at the war from a different perspective. Together they make up one of the most powerful literary collections coming out of the recent wars. Redeployment received the National Book Award for fiction in 2014, making it the first short story collection to receive the award since 1996. We spoke with Klay about what he was trying to explore and how his work contributed to the larger cultural conversation about the war and—more importantly—human nature.

Klay studied history, English, and creative writing at Dartmouth College before joining the Marine Corps, where he served as a public affairs officer. He points out, “I think sometimes when a vet writes a novel about war there is a tendency to read it autobiographically, but I didn’t do anything that any of the characters in the book do.”

About the theme of the book, he says:

I was interested in the way people choose to define themselves, the way they choose to fit into broader cultural narratives, and also the slippage between broader cultural narratives and lived experience—how that can either help people find a sense of meaning and purpose and community, or it can cut people off.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown