by Campbell Geeslin
Bernard Malamud published The Stories of Bernard Malamud in 1983. A long-time college teacher as well as author, he wrote in the introduction:
“Much occurs in writing that isn’t expected, including some types you meet and become attached to. Before you know it you’ve collected two or three strangers swearing eternal love and friendship before they begin to make demands that divide and multiply. . . .Working alone to create stories, despite serious inconveniences, is not a bad way to live our human loneliness.
“And let me say this: Literature, since it values man by describing him, tends toward morality in the same way that Robert Frost’s poem is ‘a momentary stay against confusion.’ Art celebrates life and gives us our measure.”
COUNT HER IN: Sarah MacLean lives in Brooklyn and writes historical romances. No Good Duke Goes Unpunished will be published in November. Amazon lists eight more of her titles.
MacLean wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times Book Review about the omission of romance authors in an issue about sex. MacLean wrote:
“A romance novelist would have added a special perspective on the questions ‘Why is writing about sex so difficult?’ and ‘What makes a good sex scene?’ because writing about sex is a large part of what we do. And our readers—all 75 million of them—expect us to do it well.”
Sex is, MacLean wrote, “the barest we will ever be. The barest a character will ever be. That’s why it’s difficult.”
HUNDREDS OF HATS: The 2014 edition of the Guinness World Records says that the biggest crowd to assemble wearing Cat in the Hat hats numbered 281. The Internet has a photo of them in their colorful tall headgear, posing at the New York Public Library. They were celebratiing Dr. Seuss’s other book with hats, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.
POETS’ PROBLEM: Amanda Foreman is author of the bestselling A World on Fire (2010). She has a bi-weekly column in The Wall Street Journal.
She wrote, “It has been a vintage year for poetry scandals. . . . four prize-winning poets have been accused of plagiarism.” Foreman doesn’t name any contemporary poets, but she pointed out that many famous poets have been accused of thievery over the years. Her list included Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Coleridge, Tennyson, Longfellow, Poe, and Elio.
Foreman concluded. “The rows of the past should offer some comfort to the benighted poetry community of today. It isn’t that standards are slipping. It’s just that detection is a mere click away.”
QUESTION: Which is more “relevant”-—nonfiction or fiction? Rivka Galchen tackled that subject in the October 27 Book Review of The New York Times. She has written both nonfiction and fiction and is the author of a novel, Atmospheric Disturbances.
Galchen wrote, “Because we are less sure of what fiction is ‘saying,’ we are less preemptively defended against it or biased in its favor. We are inclined to let it past our fortifications. It’s merely a court jester, there to amuse us. We let in the brazen liar and his hidden, difficult truths.”
BUSY: Iris Johansen, 75, lives near Atlanta, Georgia. She writes and writes and writes —72 novels so far, plus six co-written with her son Roy, a California novelist and screenwriter. Twelve million of her books are in print.
Her current bestseller is Silencing Eve, the third in a trilogy about a forensic sculptor.
Johansen has written 18 novels about Eve Duncan. The first, in 1998, was Face of Deception. In a biography on the Internet, Johansen said, “I first happened on the forensic sculpting career when I was watching a documentary television program. . . . What could lead a person to seek such a career? What if the motivation was both tragic and personal?”
The fictional Eve’s seven-year-old daughter was kidnapped and murdered.
Does Eve finally find out who did it in Silencing Eve?
DUAL ROLES: There are dozens of lawyers who believe that if John Grisham and Scott Turow can do it, why can’t they?
Hollywood entertainment lawyer Harry M. Brittenham is publishing a graphic novel, Shifter, on November 15. The New York Times said, “Since last year, Mr. Brittenham has been moonlighting as the author and publisher of elaborate fantasy books.” His pen name is Skip. His day job is representing some of Hollywood’s top executives.
An earlier Brittenham novel, Anomaly, has been optioned for a movie.
Another show business lawyer, Bertram Fields, has published novels as D. K Kincaid and histories under his own name. He has represented Tom Cruise and other stars.
BIRD BOOK: Donna Tartt maintained a low profile after her first two novels, but she seems to be going all out for her latest, The Goldfinch. She’s doing a 12-city book tour and gave an interview to Julie Bosman of The New York Times.
Tartt said it took her 11 years to write this third bestseller. “I was writing for a while not knowing what I was writing. That’s the way it’s been with all my books. Things will come to you and you’re not going to know exactly how they fit in. You have to trust in the way they all fit together, that your subconscious knows what you’re doing.”
The bird painting which is the title of the novel and a major plot device is on display in a new exhibition at the Frick Collection. Everyone insists this is just a happy accident.
Curiously, the same exhibit has Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring, the inspiration for Tracy Chevalier’s mega-selling novel. If you happen to be in Manhattan, you can see the paintings that inspired two popular novels—kill two birds with one visit to the Frick.
COLLECTED: After her death, the poet Emily Dickinson‘s manuscripts, letters, notes, drafts of poems and scribbles were widely scattered. They are held at Harvard, Amherst College, the Boston Public Library and five other institutions.
Last week, all these papers went online as the digital Emily Dickinson Archive, available to scholars and anyone who is curious about the thousands of scraps she left behind.
The New York Times published photos of “often startlingly beautiful manuscripts” that included “some festooned with dried flowers or doodles.”
GOOD BOOKS: Actor Joel Grey is planning to write a memoir for publication in 2015. He was asked which celebrity books he most admired, and his reply was quoted in The New York Times: “Andre Agassi’s memoir seemed nearly perfect to me, as did Patti Smith’s.”
The title of the Agassi book was Open and he had help from J.R. Moehringer.
CENTENNIAL: Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way was published 100 years ago. André Aciman, professor at the City University of New York, celebrated with an article in The Wall Street Journal explaining why the famous French “fop” matters.
Aciman, who is the author of a novel, Harvard Square, wrote: “As Proust recognized, who we are to the outside world and who we are when we retire into our private space are often two very different individuals. Proust the snob and Proust the artist may share the same address, the same friends, and the same name, even the same habits; but one belongs to society, the other to eternity.”
BOOKS IN ART: Kenneth Soehner is chief librarian at the Metropolitan Museum. He is the host of a YouTube video about art that includes images of books.
There are Egyptian depictions of their ancient “books,” and an ivory carving of a monk with a scroll. A painting by Picasso shows a creature scribbling in a book with a quill. One of Mary, the mother of Jesus, has her reading a book when interrupted by the archangel. A Van Gogh still life and a portrait include books.
Soehner called a painting of colorful volumes on a wooden stand “a bouquet of books.”
The last Image is a John Sloan print of a woman on a subway reading a book.
These are all real books, some rumpled, used, all beautiful objects, and not an e-book Kindle in the bunch.