"Sometimes,” Baker admits, “I don’t understand the difference between novels and essays. Novels are supposed to be dramatic, but look at ‘War and Peace’ — it’s full of essays. The novel has a stretchiness that can encompass this. On any given day, we make a bunch of revisions of our opinions, and it’s worth slowing down to look at these inconsistencies. That complicated mix of trying to put things in coherent form but also be true to potential interruptions, that’s what the novel can do.”
Nicholson Baker http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-77355203/
"I often think of the Orwell essay “In defence of the novel.” Orwell complains that the novel is “being shouted out of existence” by the inflation of praise, and he writes that “to apply a decent standard to the ordinary run of novels is like weighing a flea on a spring-balance intended for elephants.” His view is that since all novels published at a given moment are basically fleas, critics are forced to recalibrate their thermometers to judge the difference between one flea and another flea, making distinctions that aren’t really important. Meanwhile, when a truly great novel comes along, it bursts the thermometer that we are using to measure the fleas. With Franzen and Freedom, it seemed to me that here we have a flea that is being treated as an elephant. That doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with the flea—it’s perfectly good as fleas go—but to regard it as an elephant is to lose our grasp of what a really great novel is."
Ruth Franklin, http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/critical-thinking-ruth-franklin-interview/#.UiCmzGS9Kc0
"An essay begins with an idea, but an idea begins with a certain orientation of the mind and will — with a mood, if you please. We have only the ideas that our mood of the moment prepares us to have, and while our moods may be connected to the truth of things, they are normally connected only to some truths, some highly partial facet of reality. Out of that mood we think; out of those thoughts we write. And it may be that only in speaking those thoughts do we discern the mood from which they arose. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” — a terrifying judgment, when you think of it."
Alan Jacobs, https://medium.com/this-happened-to-me/241a5a0dc27a
Rebecca from Connecticut likes the following books:
What books do Tommy Wieringa and I recommend for Rebecca? (You’ve probably got some great suggestions of your own; add them when you re-blog!)
Tommy Wieringa is the author of Little Caesar. His previous novel, Joe Speedboat, won the Bordewijk Prize in 2006 and was long-listed for the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, as well as nominated for the AKO Literature Prize. He lives in Amsterdam.
(taped at WORD Brooklyn, Greenpoint)
I’m “Rebecca from Connecticut,” and I’m excited about these recommendations! I’ve been meaning to read both authors for a while now but haven’t done it yet. Now I will.
"I just called myself a connoisseur of novels, which stretches the definition a little: ‘An expert judge in matters of taste.’ I have a deep interest in my two inches of ivory, but it’s a rare connoisseur who does not seek to be an expert judge of more than one form. By their good taste are they known, and connoisseurs tend to like a wide area in which to exercise it. I have known many true connoisseurs, with excellent tastes that range across the humanities and the culinary arts — and they never fail to have a fatal effect on my self-esteem. When I find myself sitting at dinner next to someone who knows just as much about novels as I do but has somehow also found the mental space to adore and be knowledgeable about the opera, have strong opinions about the relative rankings of Renaissance painters, an encyclopedic knowledge of the English civil war, of French wines — I feel an anxiety that nudges beyond the envious into the existential. How did she find the time?”
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/12/17/121217fa_fact_smith (Full essay not available online)
"There are choices we can make as consumers and as members of a creative community. A lot of the stuff I’m about to mention might seem very obvious. It’s definitely stuff you’re already doing. Let’s resolve to do more.
1. Buy books. New and old books, print books and ebooks, hardcover and paperback books, used and brand-new books.
2. Buy books from all kinds of stores.
3. Borrow books from libraries.
4. Recommend books. Use social media to discuss your reading. Use book clubs to discuss your reading. Use conversations with friends to discuss your reading. If you think someone you know would particularly like a book, tell her. Give her the book as a present or take it out from the library and hand it to her.
5. Thank people who have recommended books to you.
6. Read and write about books.
7. When writing about books online, don’t default to linking to a particular book retailer when mentioning the book. A lot of literary sites always link to Amazon because by doing this they get some amount of money via the Amazon Affiliates program. I believe that these sites should reevaluate their business models.
My current default is to link to Goodreads, but it’s probably even better to mix it up.
8. Diversify your sources of book recommendations. Start reading a different magazine or blog of book reviews.
9. Start a book club. And join ours. :)”
"It’s easy to point to bad memoirs and use them to attack the entire form but the form is never the problem. When you attack personal writing you attack Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemingway, and Sylvia Plath. In truth most books are bad and most publishers are risk averse. Many bookstores are going out of business. The changing media landscape has made it harder for journalists to make a living. But that’s not a problem with memoir."