Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Stanly Fish, Great Spanish Novels, and the Struggles of Debut Novelists

Stanley Fish wrote a delicious bit of literary criticism in the guise of an op-ed for the NY Times the other day. In it, he exercises some close reading skills on the first sentences of a bunch of recent mystery novels (he asks you to picture him--or, rather, yourself--at the local airport bookstore), and it's the most rewarding attention to sentences I've encountered since Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer. I'm guessing he read the entire books (or at least more than the opening sentence) before theorizing about how much a first sentence can tell you about a novel, but the idea that applying critical thinking skills to a few first sentences could help you find the best book in the heap is enormously appealing in this age of limited time and overabundant choices. Excellently done. GalleyCat identifies (with some help) the novels discussed.

A new poll in the Spanish-language Semana magazine lists the top 100 Spanish language novels of all time. It continues to be a great year for the late Roberto Bolano: two of his novels place in the top 5, including the just-translated Savage Detectives.

Library Journal has a fine, thoughtful sidebar in their annual look at debut novels (scroll down to "Great Expectations") about the fortunes of some high-profile, acclaimed debuts and the challenges of the market.



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