- A.S. Byatt admires the “American-style reportage” present in the work of Zadie Smith and Monica Ali, and argues that a renewed focus on storytelling since the 1970’s has left the British novel in good shape.
- Ali Smith and Toby Litt touched off a firestorm (ably summarized by Annie Reid) last week when critics branded their introduction to the New Writing 13 anthology “a sweeping condemnation of the subject matter, writing style and preoccupations of female writers.” Readers in London can, in the words of an anonymous source, “subject the editors of New Writing 13 to some bile,” or at least hear readings from the new anthology, at 3AM Magazine’s fifth birthday celebration, held Saturday April 23rd, beginning at 7 p.m.
- “It is time,” says Tanya Gold, “to exhume the real Charlotte [Brontë] — filthy bitch, grandmother of chick-lit, and friend.” Meanwhile, Miriam Burstein of The Little Professor counters that Gold’s article “manages to exemplify just about everything that’s wrong with ahistorical readings of Victorian sexuality…. Filthy bitch?!” (Second link via The Reading Experience.)
- Few translations of George Sand’s work are available to the modern reader. But, for Charlotte Brontë and other Victorians, Sand’s “‘wicked’ novels offered a welcome release from the prudery of English culture, legitimising the expression of female erotic passion and transfiguring it into something ‘godlike’.”
- Advocating a return to literary engagement with nature, Robert Macfarlane says writers should approach landscapes with the “attention” or “especially vigilant kind of ‘looking'” that, in the words of Iris Murdoch, “teaches us how real things can be looked at and loved without being seized and used, without being appropriated into the greedy organism of the self.”
- California Stories Uncovered, an anthology of California-themed stories and other writings, will include work from, among others, MaudNewton.com’s beloved Joan Didion, and from Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Divakaruni’s “Mrs. Dutta Writes a Letter” was one of two or three standouts from The Best American Short Stories 1999. Her The Mistress of Spices is being made into an $80 million film.
- Ellen Gilchrist’s The Writing Life consists of “nearly 60 brief essays [including] ‘How I Got Stronger and Smarter Instead of Stupider and Sadder,’ about understanding and battling alcoholism.” Among other things, the Mississippi writer reminisces about Eudora Welty, under whom she studied at Millsaps College in Jackson:
It seemed hard to imagine that the kind, gentle woman who climbed the steps of the Millsaps library two afternoons a week to talk to us was a famous writer. When she talked about literature, about stories she loved, then I believed it, but not when I saw her coming up the steps with her hunched back and wearing a little stocking cap and looking so sad. She drove to the nursing home every afternoon and spent the evening with her mother.
- Last Friday, March 25, was the 94th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, which claimed the lives of 146 immigrant workers. Triangle, a forthcoming novel by Katharine Weber (Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear) , opens with “a transcribed description of the fire by the oldest living survivor, Esther Gottesfeld.”