My liquor bills being what they are, I found great comfort in the first few recent articles trumpeting a link between drunkenness and great writing. But at this point even I am beginning to wonder how many more newspapers will jump on the alcoholism-begats-literature bandwagon. In anticipation of the New Year, Don Gillmor, for The Globe and Mail, considers the place of alcohol in the works of Bukowski, Hemingway, Faulkner, Margaret Laurence, and Cheever.
For the Independent, Christina Patterson takes a look at U.S. and British novels slated to appear on U.K. bookshelves in the first months of 2004:
Attempts to produce the Great American Novel remain, on the evidence of the spring catalogues, slightly more energetic than their British equivalents. While many of next year’s crop of new novels grapple with history in its public and private forms, it seems that few have the chutzpah to take on the State of the Nation.
The Guardian offers a survey of the U.K. titles that filled publishers’ coffers in 2003.
Some who have religious fanatics for parents become wildly successful novelists at the age of 18. Others, in their early 30’s, are forever working on a novel partly inspired by the experience.
In a weekend article, Laura Miller quotes from “Proper and Dark Heroes as Dads and Cads: Alternative Mating Strategies in British Romantic Literature”:
It is difficult to make progress in literary studies because, unlike scientists, literary scholars do not base their findings on theories that are subject to empirical tests…. The imaginations of literary researchers are allowed to run wild, and theories like deconstruction and Lacanian psychoanalysis are selected not because of their effectiveness in generating empirically valid hypotheses, but because people just happen to like them.
“Alas for [the authors], literature … practices a form of natural selection, and it is based entirely on the unempirical standard of what we just happen to like,” Miller says.
Mexican novelist and art critic Juan Garcia Ponce has died.
The Guardian has published an unfinished excerpt of the book Carol Shields was working on when she died last July.
An article in The New York Times several months ago (now only available through the paid archives) noted the rise of young German novelists whose stories are concerned with issues other than politics and history. Heidi Sylvester makes the same observation but argues:
this renaissance in story-telling has gone largely unnoticed in the English-speaking world. A growing unwillingness on the part of especially large U.S. publishing houses to wager a bet on translated novels means that many of Germany’s promising young authors remain inaccessible, thus enhancing the impression that this country’s literary masters have kept their postwar focus on history and politics.
Crossing the BLVD: Strangers, Neighbors, Aliens in a New America provides first-person accounts from 79 immigrants in Queens, New York. Also, “Generation EA: Ethnically Ambiguous.”
New U.K. book: “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Malady or Myth?”
Marion Ettlinger, writer photographer extraordinaire, has collected more than 200 of her portraits of contemporary writers in a coffee table book, Author Photo. (Via Bookninja.) My advice: if you can’t get Ettlinger, become involved with a photographer. Only your significant other will have the patience to take 700 photos of you through various lenses, in the most flattering lighting possible, knowing that you’ll probably hate every last print.
Libraries are spending less on books and more on CDs and other new media.