In the weekend’s Philly Inquirer, TEV proprietor Mark Sarvas offers up a review of Sheila Heti’s Ticknor, which reimagines biographer George Ticknor as “a thwarted second-rater, all talk and very little action, forever toiling in the shadow of his wildly successful childhood friend” and biography subject, historian W.H. Prescott. Every time Mark mentions this book, I wonder why I haven’t picked up a copy yet.
Laura Miller explains why she abstained from voting in the NY Timespoll purporting to identify “the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years”: “My point in objecting was not just some namby-pamby reluctance to make any relative evaluation about literature, because that really is an important thing that critics do: declare that some books are better than others. I have no problem doing that, but I hate imposing a rigidly, atomistic structure on it. Ultimately, novels are so diverse that once they attain a certain level of quality, they really can’t be meaningfully ranked against each other.”
Kevin Kelly looks at current efforts to create, by scanning in classic texts, the library of all libraries. “In the clash between the conventions of the book and the protocols of the screen,” he says, “the screen will prevail.” (For another perspective, see “Passion for paper.”)
Michael Orthofer interviews the brilliant Dubravka Ugresic.
Thomas Beller on fiction, memoir, and publishing today: “I’ve always felt that when someone asks me if a piece of fiction I wrote really happened, if the character is really me, it deals an implied insult to the writing, as though it isn’t skill or imagination that made the story, but just straight reportage.”
From Aleksandr Fadeev’s suicide note, addressed to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union: “Literature has been placed under the control of untalented, petty, rancorous people. Those few individuals who have retained the holy fire in their souls find themselves in the position of pariahs and — because of their age — will soon perish.”