For decades men dominated the world of science fiction. But, Maddie Crum reports, the tables have turned. Read why she things these women authors now dominate the field:
- L. Timmel Duchamp
- Emily St. John Mandel
- Octavia Butler
- Madeleine L’Engle
- Nnedi Okorafor
- Jo Walton
- Hiromi Goto
- Karen Joy Fowler
- Tanith Lee
- Alice Bradley Sheldon
- Nalo Hopkinson
- Karen Russell
- Leonora Carrington
- Sofia Samatar
Iain Pears has always written complex books – his latest, Arcadia, has 10 separate story strands. To make his readers’ lives easier, he turned to interactive technology
Iain Pears laments, “What should be a simple task – write story, create software, publish – turns out to be anything but in practice.”
The author of An Instance of the Fingerpost, which my book club loved several years ago and which is on my list of books deserving a reread, explains that he undertook the project of both writing and producing an app for his latest work, Arcadia, because “I had reached the limit of my storytelling in book form and needed some new tools to get me to the next stage.”
His previous novels are all “complex structurally,” he explains, and since he wanted to write a book even more complex, he considered “how to make my readers’ lives as easy as possible by bypassing the limitations of the classic linear structure.”
In developing the software to aid readers, he writes, his main aim was “making the technology the servant of the story rather than its master.”
This is a fascinating look at how a writer attempts to use new technological tools as a way of expanding the possibilities of narrative. He compares his approach to the way the introduction of film influenced narrative: At first people simply set up cameras and recorded plays; only somewhat later did artists begin to explore the different possibilities that film offered to make a movie different from a stage performance.
Writing Arcadia did produce odd effects in ways that an ordinary book or ebook could not; scenes became more episodic and vignette-like; the demands of shifting from one point of view to another, and then to multiple ones in different worlds, required different ways of writing.
Arcadia will be published in Britain on September 3. A link at the end of this piece takes you to iTunes, where you can get the app.
One question readers must always consider is how much they want to know about the author—or, more specifically, should what we know about an author influence how we react to or interpret a literary work?
This piece considers the case of Italian author Elena Ferrante, who eschews publicity so ferociously that most people don’t even know what she looks like.
Here writer Arifa Akbar wishes that more authors would follow Ferrante’s lead: “As Ferrante suggests, the book should surely be enough, though that is sadly not the reality for many pressured to deliver a performance after they have delivered their novel.”
Julianna Haubner writes:
While the classics have always had a reputation for intimidating length (Tolstoy, Dickens, I’m looking at you), we are now living in the era of an entirely new trend: the big, fat, juicy debut novel. Industry insiders (The Daily Beast and Vulture among them) have put in their two cents, but here’s ours: the bigger the better! Whether they’re fetching huge advances or sleeper successes, here are our favorite first-time tries that keep us reading past page five hundred.
These books are not all from the year. But read why she so enjoyed these authors’ big first novels:
- The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
- We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
- Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
- The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
- City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
- House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
- Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
- The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
- Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
- A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
- The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
If you love literature, here’s your chance to connect with some of the most technologically savvy writers:
a few [writers] are using the etherland as a canvas for experimentation and play. They have moved their storytelling, wit and insight from page to pixel, winning fans and readers in the process.
- Neil Gaiman
- Paulo Coelho
- Margaret Atwood
- Teju Cole
- Ursula K. LeGuin
- Salman Rushdie
- Gary Shteyngart
- Haruki Murakami
- David Mitchell
- Veronica Roth
What I particularly like about this list is that it proves that technology isn’t just for the young and the hip.
Here’s Publishers Weekly’s introduction to this article:
Amelia Gray’s wonderfully dark story collection Gutshot features a giant snake bisecting a town and a man, afraid of losing his beloved, soothed by her detached sensory perceptions. Gray, a master of haunting storytelling, picks 10 of her favorite books.
And here’s Gray’s introduction to her list:
Whether it’s borne out of some kind of bizarro escapism or the desire to see the dark mind confirmed and confined on the page, the urge to read and write dark fiction has been steady in my life. Here are ten books that have left their mark on my mind and my work.
I don’t like straight horror, but most of Gray’s choices here seem to pertain more to the dark depths of the human heart rather than to supernatural or unnatural machinations.
Read why she’s been influenced by the following books:
- Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates
- Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy
- Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
- Life Is With People by Atticus Lish
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- Tampa by Alissa Nutting
- Nobody is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey
- The Wish Giver: Three Tales of Coven Tree by Bill Brittain
- Bird by Noy Holland
I do, however, disagree with one of her choices, Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love. That’s the book that made me decide, many years ago, that I don’t have to finish reading every book that I start.
I have loved the work of Kent Haruf ever since I read his 1999 novel Plainsong, which became his most popular work. That novel dealt with life on the plains of Colorado, in the fictional town of Holt. Two subsequent novels continue the story.
Haruf died last November at age 71. He completed one last work before his death:
Normally, it took him six years or more to write a novel. But in a rush of creative energy, he wrote a chapter a day. Roughly 45 days later, he had finished a draft of his final novel, “Our Souls at Night.”
Also set in Holt, Colorado, but otherwise unrelated to the earlier novels, this novel focuses on finding love late in life. Its inspiration was Haruf’s relationship with his wife, Cathy.
Our Souls at Night will be released on May 28. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy.
The legendary writer of psychoanalytic mysteries captured the culture of postwar California better than anyone
Noir-heads and private-eye fans have long known that the detective novels of Ross Macdonald hit a sweet spot between plot-driven pulp writing and character-driven literary fiction. Inspired by the work of Dashiell Hammett (especially “The Maltese Falcon”), taught about symbolism by W.H. Auden, hailed by Eudora Welty for “serious and complex” work, he wrote 18 novels driven by the gloomy, ambiguous detective Lew Archer.
Scott Timberg interviews Macdonald biographer Tom Nolan for online magazine Salon. Says Nolan:
He felt that the character of the detective was really not the most important character in the books. In fact, he started out thinking the perpetrator was of more interest than the detective — there was opportunity for tragedy, with the criminal — but in later years, he felt the victim was the most important or significant character.
Timberg also quotes Salon music and culture critic Greil Marcus, who has read all of Macdonald’s books:
“If you read Macdonald’s psychoanalytic mysteries in order, as the theme took on greater and greater power for him, the feeling that comes up builds book by book: that just as the reader is scared to reach the ending, so is Lew Archer, and so is Ross Macdonald.”
Author Judith Claire Mitchell examines the function of ghosts in literature in this piece for The Guardian:
When Barry Hannah, the late novelist of the American south, taught fiction workshops, he would begin by writing those two words on the blackboard. All stories, he’d say, are ghost stories. Something haunts the work and the reader turns the pages to find out what it is. As a student of Hannah’s back in the day, I took these words to heart. Literary ghosts didn’t have to scare; what they had to do was haunt.
“In literature,” says the writer Tabitha King, “the ghost is almost always a metaphor for the past.” This is true for literal ghosts who manifest in graveyards, and it’s true for figurative ghosts who are no more substantive than insistent memory.
Here’s Mitchell’s list of “the phantoms that kept me turning pages, the ones I never forgot when I finished the book”:
- Michael Furey in James Joyce’s “The Dead”
- The highboy in Alison Lurie’s “The Highboy”
- Holiday in Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones
- A missing child in Kevin Brockmeier’s The Truth About Celia
- Rebecca in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca
- The parrot in Robert Olen Butler’s Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot
- Americans like me in Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior
- The Misfit in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find”
- Beloved in Toni Morrison’s Beloved
- Any of the demons in Lynda Barry’s One Hundred Demons