First up, it’s bookstores. You know those posts that go around with amazing bookstores. Funnily enough, the one I really dig in this list is the first, and most traditional-looking shop:
City Lights Bookshop, San Francisco.
An article from The Millions on the art of epigraphs. Like the writer, I collect quotations and other scraps of words but have never used an epigraph.
This is a really interesting piece where writers reflect on ‘falling short’ aka failure. Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Anne Enright, Howard Jacobson, Will Self and Lionel Shriver all contribute. I’ve printed it off for reading later.
And now for the Donna Tartt section. I did really love The Goldfinch and I really love Tartt’s writing. Even The Little Friend which I desperately wanted to love, confounded me. I think I will re-read that book though over the rest of my life and maybe I will make more sense of it each time. Anyway, there is a lot of criticism about Goldfinch, mostly from critics but from readers as well. Some people just screw up their noses when I mention it, my mother is one. Others, like me, really enjoyed it. After reading in one of these articles again about how Tartt ‘trades in cliches’ I hauled the book out and spent some time this morning re-reading the opening few chapters. Oh, there are cliches, but I missed them as they are buried within really muscular tight prose. Yes, there are a couple of repeated words (‘harried’ was one) but I think that because it’s first person narrative, and we are with Theo Drecker, 13-year-old man-child – yes, he is bright, yes, his mother has raised him to appreciate art etc – but it would not be incorrect for him to use cliches. Am I being too apologetic on her behalf? Maybe. What she does do it tell a story, and she gets it going very quickly so I was entranced with the novel from a couple of pages in. Anyway, have you read it and what did you think?
Here is an article on Edward St Aubyn’s book Lost for Words. Sour grapes?
Via The Paris Review is this little beauty.
Every moment of serious reading has to be fought for, planned for … A prediction: the novel of elegant, highly distinct prose, of conceptual delicacy and syntactical complexity, will tend to divide itself up into shorter and shorter sections, offering more frequent pauses where we can take time out. The larger popular novel … will be ever more laden with repetitive formulas, and coercive, declamatory rhetoric to make it easier and easier, after breaks, to pick up.
This is quite lovely and comes again from The NYRB. It’s by a writer and the questions that people ask at literary festivals. It reminds me of this particular personage who gets about on twitter, asking questions even when they are not questions, putting a question mark at the end of everything she writes. Whenever she is on, it brightens up my day. Several people have accused each other of being behind this twitter account. I don’t care who it is, I love it.
I’m a bit conflicted about linking to this one, but anyway. It’s good to keep a balance and I don’t think I can remember reading about a creative person’s process and not gleaned something. Loose application of creative used there. Yes, it’s James Patterson writing tips.
And finally, famous authors dissing each other. I love Hemingway and am happy to see only one that I already knew about. Either they didn’t dig (he also took shots at Fitzgerald) but Norman Mailer, unsurprisingly, is the big bastard of the group. Nabokov’s comment about Hemingway is interesting, but Gore Vidal’s is odd. Doesn’t say why he detested him. And influence, well who hasn’t been influenced?