Hasta el martes

Labor Day weekend is approaching. That means time off. And since many of you will be away from your computers anyway, there will be no guest tomorrow.

To put it more plainly: no posts until Tuesday.

Eat, drink and be merry, for next week — for all practical purposes — the summer ends.

Oh, and do have some dark chocolate. It’s good for you. (Thanks Steph.)

It is not the moon

Louise Glück is to be the new U.S. Poet Laureate. I’ve always been impressed with her work.

In an interview, Monica Ali (author of Brick Lane) says she started writing short stories with encouragement from online critique groups:

“I started off writing short stories. When I’d had my first child I’d go onto the Internet, usually after he’d woken me up in the night . . . there’s these on-line writing groups. There’s loads of on-line writing groups. It’s a whole other world out there . . . You get instant feedback on your stories and they’re quite helpful to get into the disciplined habit of writing on a regular basis and to feel some connection with other people out there doing the same thing,” she says.

Now, she says, her success has given her time to work on her next novel.

The French reportedly are “flooding the market with all the books they think anyone might be interested in — the rentrée littéraire (which is followed by the prize-giving season, which culminates with the Prix Goncourt). 691 titles this year (i.e. this week), all competing for attention.”

Publishers Lunch today included this article about Please Don’t Kill the Freshman, forthcoming from HarperCollins on September 30. The author is a 17-year-old girl using the pen name Zoe Trope:

Zoe has spent her summer doing normal teenage things: cruising around in her car with friends, taking vacations with her family and killing time. But instead of heading off to school this fall, she will embark on a book tour and begin to find out whether critics and readers agree with her HarperCollins editors that her book is the real deal. Best-selling author Dave Eggers thinks so and will write a blurb for the book’s jacket.

“So many people are going to use the word ‘angst’ to describe it, and it makes me want to rip my eyeballs out,” says Zoe, anticipating the book reviews. “I mean, while it would be ridiculous to take a 15-year-old seriously all the time, it was very serious to me at that time.”

Media focus

A. J. Jacobs, an editor at Esquire, has another year to finish writing his forthcoming “book for Simon & Schuster based on his experiences reading the Encyclopedia Britannica cover to cover” but he’s already landed an monthly gig talking about it on NPR. (Via Karen Templer at Readerville.)

And because I can’t give it a rest, apparently, here are handy links to the last Laura Miller controversy, which exploded after her review of Caleb Carr’s The Lessons of Terror.

2003 O’Henry Awards

The current issue of Poets and Writers also includes an article by Timothy Schaffert about Laura Furman’s selections for The O. Henry Prize Stories 2003.

Schaffert takes note of Furman’s belief that commercial magazines, such as The New Yorker and Harper’s, “don’t publish enough fiction to properly represent the number of talented short story writers in this country.” He quotes Furman as saying, “‘it’s up to the small magazines. And I think that’s really in line with O. Henry’s mission: to read them and recognize them and thank them.'”

The 2003 picks include stories from established writers like Coraghessan Boyle, Tim O’ Brien, and Alice Munro, and from newer names like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and “two writers who received the prize for their first stories to ever be accepted for publication—Douglas Light (‘Three Days. A Month. More.’ first published in Alaska Quarterly Review) and Adam Desnoyers (‘Bleed Blue in Indonesia,’ Idaho Review).”

You can read “Three Days. A Month. More.” online. And get ready to hear Light’s name more often. I happen to know he recently graduated from the City College of New York with a completed novel manuscript that’s sure to be snapped up any day now, if it hasn’t been already. He’s also the Managing Editor at Ep;phany magazine.

Why criticism, and more

In the latest issue of Poets & Writers, Mary Gannon explores the reasons Michael Dirda and other top-ranking literary reviewers are drawn to the oft-maligned profession. Gannon gives the obligatory nod to the Believer manifesto and observes that “snarky” reviews receive a lot of attention. She quotes not only Dirda, but also Sven Birkerts, Jonathan Yardley, and the now-infamous Laura Miller (Salon senior writer and columnist for the New York Times Book Review). For Miller:

the appeal of writing reviews is the appeal of writing in general—“getting a chance to work out what you think and to put your point of view out there as part of the big conversation. And it’s great to be able to read all these books that I might not have the time to read otherwise if it weren’t my profession.”….

“Reading of any kind is a leisure activity,” says Miller, “and if we make people feel like they’ve wasted their time, they’re bored, they could have been watching Sex and the City, then all we do is discourage them from reading again the next time they have a choice. Our job is to be interesting and to make people feel like they’ve added something to their lives by reading what you’ve provided, even if all they’ve done is laugh.”


(Link via Arts Journal.)

Here’s another impassioned (and negative) response to Miller’s Palahniuk review.

Terry Teachout writes today about the visceral responses and feelings that, ideally, precede criticism:

analysis matters…but it doesn’t matter most, and it doesn’t come first. If you’re sitting in your aisle seat trying to figure out why you’re getting goose bumps, you’re missing the point of getting them. The point is to be there—to be present and fully receptive to the immediate experience.

To jump tracks entirely, I recently mentioned a version of the New Testament reworked in the style of a girls’ fashion magazine. Jim Remsen at the The Philadelphia Inquirer provides excerpts:

Its tips are wholesome but perky.

On skin care: “As you apply sunscreen, use that time to talk to God. Tell him how grateful you are for how he made you. Soon, you’ll be so used to talking to him, it might become as regular and familiar as shrinking your pores.”

On dating: If you’re going after that cute guy ’cause you think he’ll make you popular, that’s selfish, and love is not selfish. “Check your priorities, sister. They’re way off.”

(Also via Arts Journal.)

Jason Feifer reveals the secrets of news reporting in a small town:

As a reporter in a city of 20,000, my job is to make news where there is none. This is a delicate skill, requiring a good deal of community involvement and a constant deflation of pride. I am writing about nothing, and I’m doing it on a regular basis for relatively nobody.

Finally, a special issue of Flak Magazine is coming out in print. Order now.