Sean Penn’s new novel doesn’t deserve a considerate review — or a reader’s time (Chicago Tribune)

But this is not a review of “Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff,” because it is not a book that deserves to be taken seriously enough to be reviewed.

Speaking from personal experience, it is very difficult to write even a merely satisfactory novel. To go beyond satisfactory, to publishable, and beyond even that, to well-received, is more difficult still, involving no small amount of good fortune.


How Women See How Male Authors See Them (The New Yorker)

 

Lavin’s thread distilled the ridiculousness that ensues when bookish men perform interest in women’s inner lives out of a misbegotten sense of nobility. No one is fooled. No one thinks that Jonathan Franzen has tapped into some deep well of humanist perception when his twentysomething creation declares herself “the little squirrel that loves to fuck.” John Updike, you do not actually empathize with expectant mothers! The compressed brilliance of Lydia Kiesling’s phrase “the quick compensatory mind” contains seventy years of bowing to male sexual appetite as the de-facto measure of all things.


Do Flashbacks Work in Literature? (The New York Review of Books)

Every few days, working on my new novel, my thoughts flash back to something Colm Tóibín said at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival nine months ago: that flashbacks are infuriating. Speaking at an event to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, Tóibín said Austen was marvelous because she was able to convey character and plot in the most satisfying way without the “clumsiness” of the flashback. Today, on the other hand, we have to hear how a character’s parents and even grandparents met and married. Writers skip back and forth in time filling in the gaps in their shaky stories. It is dull and incompetent.

Is Tóibín right? I worry, as I prepare to put together a flashback myself. Is there no merit or sense in the device? Didn’t Joyce use it? And Faulkner? Or David Lodge, for that matter? Or John Updike? Or going back before Austen, Laurence Sterne? In which case, can there really be, as Tóibín appears to suggest, an association between the flashback and “our unhappy age”?


Amazon Is Burying Sexy Books, Sending Erotic Novel Authors to the ‘No-Rank Dungeon’ (Motherboard)

In the last few days, word has spread among independent erotica authors on social media that Amazon was quietly changing its policies for erotic novels. Five authors I spoke to, and several more on social media, have reported that their books were stripped of their best seller rankings—essentially hiding them from casual browsing on the site, and separating them from more mainstream, safe-for-work titles.


Bar Americans from Man Booker Prize, fed-up British authors urge (Seattle Times)

The crescendo of frustration may have reached a peak. A group that counts literary heavyweights Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan and Zadie Smith among its members has fired a shot across the bow, demanding that the Man Booker Foundation reverse a 2014 decision making any novel written in English and published in Britain eligible for the prize.

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