Philip Marchand argues that male characters in contemporary Canadian literature are hopeless pansies. He says:
I don’t know if there is any wider significance to this year’s rash of novels populated by feminized or ineffectual men. There has always been this tendency in Canadian literature, particularly French Canadian literature, but it has never seemed so blatant as now. Does it have anything to do with our current politics? With the stifling and near total lack of opposition to the impending rule of Canada by a nervous-looking businessman?
Among other things, he takes issue with the names used: “My apologies to anyone named Miles, but the name doesn’t exactly conjure up the rugged brows of a ‘Dunstan’ or a ‘Magnus,'”
Now, I haven’t read most of the offending contemporary Canadian novels, but where I come from (and I’m sure naming conventions are different in the States) a name like Dunstan or Magnus is going to assure a boy years of rock-pelting at recess. Miles, on the other hand, would have nothing to fear–provided he’s not freckled or nearsighted or inept at sports. (Via Arts Journal.)
Grant Stewart discovered the manuscript in a slush pile a few years back. Nothing publishable is supposed to appear in the slush pile, Stewart says, or so he thought when he took the job. He accepted the position because he was broke and his own novel had sold poorly and he was battling chronic fatigue syndrome. He got through the days by imagining advice he would send all the would-be novelists whose manuscripts cluttered his desk–if only he were left to his own devices:
Dear Wannabe Novelist. Tips for your next submission (God help us). First, look at the covering letter you will send out with your opus. If it contains the sentence ‘This is my life’s work, it took me eight weeks!’, get out of my sight.
Stewart’s second novel, The Octopus Hunter, was published, but sold no better than the first. Then:
to cap it all, even the slush betrayed me. They called him Pierre. I thrust the 30 sample pages in Clare’s face. “Read this now! It’s a masterpiece!! From the SLUSH PILE!!!” Clare loved it. Faber & Faber loved it and paid a small fortune to publish it.”
In the end, the point of the article seems to be that despite the envy and depression that overcame Stewart as Vernon God Little received more and more acclaim, Stewart has learned that he had to succomb to chronic fatigue syndrome in order to be at peace with the notion that his forthcoming third novel may not win the Booker Prize. (Many thanks to Emma for the link.)
I’m sure you’re all aware that the National Book Award finalists have been announced. TC Boyle makes the fiction list; Terry Teachout voted on the nonfiction selections; the Old Hag critiques the poetry candidates.
Recently I mentioned my fascination with Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair. I first read it in college, but I’ve reread it three or four times since the start of this year. While I was sick last week, I pulled out The Power and The Glory and The Heart of the Matter, hoping to transfer my addiction to a different novel, if not a different author. Max pointed out that all of the Greene paperbacks I have feature cover shots of barren trees and landscapes–a strange choice, we agreed, for some of Greene’s novels.
Announcing its book cover contest yesterday, the Guardian discussed the history of modern book covers and the increased incidence of photography-as-cover-art over the last two decades.
For the contest, “the challenge is to take a photograph worthy of being reproduced as the front cover of a republished Penguin Modern Classic.” The 4 books featured in the competition are: The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov; The Go-Between, by LP Hartley; Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell; and The Sheltering Sky, by Paul Bowles.
Strunk & White Greatest Hits: Place a comma before and or but introducing an independent clause. (Via Prints the Chaff.)
Sara Nelson believes that “thereâ€™s a self-consciousness about [Ann Godoff’s] catalog … that makes you root for it.”
Godoff’s list doesn’t really interest me, but at least it’s not hair-raising–unlike the announcement that Random House has decided to publish Hollywood Animal, Joe Eszterhas’s autobiography, next year. The publisher “has committed a six-figure dollar sum, adding that it will have the manuscript read thoroughly by libel lawyers.”