Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Booker is Evil; Literary Journals; Chicago Literature; and more

Now that the Fest is over, I'm catching up on articles I'd been saving. These are mostly literature-related pieces:

Robert Harris recently proclaimed "The Booker Prize is evil"! Bloggers have been crying "sour grapes" as they (rightly) speculate he'll never win, but Harris is up front about knowing he'll never get it, which I think conceivably allows him to take a step back and judge the process with detachment. I'm an awards junkie, but I think his criticism merits a serious hearing. Consider this quote:
I think it actually could be argued that such awards damage the industry by telling people they SHOULD be reading serious literary fiction of a certain kind (which they often associate with books they hated in school). And I'm someone who generally prefers to read literary fiction. Wouldn't it be better for awards to recognize excellence in a wide variety of fiction? Why do they always only hold up the kind of work we all know doesn't go down well the general reading public? This year's Booker sounds like a perfect example of miserablism to avoid. Don't these awards just tell most readers, What you read is trash even though you think it's fun? And how is that good for the industry?
Why the big awards (Booker, NBCC, NBA) shy away from popular genres beats me. Excellence thrives all around, after all. And they could institute separate categories.

Well, we can at least find some fun by betting on the awards, as Publishers Weekly now allows us to do. (For glory, not for financial gain, alas.)

Well, someone disliked Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones as much as I do - eek, maybe more.

Every now and then I realize I'm an uninformed boob, partly because I don't have cable and don't get my news from tv, where video makes some things clearer. I had no idea that poet Nikki Giovanni teaches at Virginia Tech. That she had the psycho in her classroom. That she...well, surely you already know.
An online literary journal actually grows into the realm of print. (Which reminds me of the recent story about the blog that grew into a small press.)

Speaking of literary journals, I've been wanting to find one to subscribe to, but every time I flip through them at the bookstore I think (sorry) but snore. I know Virginia Quarterly Review has its (rabid) fans (partly, I suspect, because it's slicker than most and includes graphic narrative in the mix, which, come on, everyone should be doing) but it has failed to grab me so far. Back when I read more poetry, I subscribed to Field, an excellent journal, but I'm not quite as into poetry as I once was. Then, yesterday, a copy of Ploughshares dropped into my hands. Staid old Ploughshares, which I'd never really examined before. The new issue was guest edited by Andrea Barrett! The previous issue (I quickly determined) by Edward Hirsch! Excitement...building. My god, they don't just run 1 or 2 stories like most journals, they run many! I suddenly recalled that just about every time I've read a good short story collection, the sources page has listed this magazine. I'm going to give this issue a test-read, but I think I may at last have found a journal I could actually subscribe to and look forward to getting in the mail!

The NYTimes investigates that inscrutable, powerful institution, the NYTimes Bestseller List.

Chicago Magazine ran a nice article on Chicago novels. Searching for it also led me to this rather nice blog.

A powerful Philip Roth interview from 2006 (if I have my facts straight), before the election, but I only just saw it.

Local bookstore Women and Children First (which has been struggling to survive, more here) their first profit in 5 years. That's great news, though I'm wondering how they were surviving before.

Ticketmaster is upset: No, they say, gouging customers is our job!

I had to roll my eyes at NYer music critic Sasha-Frere Jones's recent cri de coeur about race and recent pop music. It's intelligent and thought-provoking, and he raises some good strong questions, but I think he's also shoe-horning things into his thesis (one which feels like it comes from the heart of a guy who's come down with a good old fashioned case of liberal guilt). Still, one of the more interesting pieces I've read in a while. Much reaction online.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home