by Campbell Geeslin
Louise Erdrich is the author of the novels Love Medicine and The Round House. She will receive the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction on September 5. The award goes to writers with “unique, enduring voices” whose work deals with the American experience.
The Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, was quoted in The New York Times: “Louise Erdrich has portrayed her fellow Native Americans as no contemporary American novelist ever has. Her prose manages to be at once lyrical and gritty, magical yet unsentimental, connecting a dream world of Ojibwe legend to stark realities of the modern day.”
Erdrich said, “Maybe I owe it all to my first job—hoeing sugar beets. I stare at lines of words all day and chop out the ones that suck life from the rest of the sentence. Eventually all those rows add up.”
KING’S WAY: Alison Flood, staff writer for The Guardian, reported: “The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, out in November, will include 20 stories and feature [Stephen] King’s first major insights into the writing process since his 2000 memoir On Writing.” In addition, each story will have “autobiographical comments and when, why and how he came to write it.”
Flood quoted from King’s book: “Little by little, writers develop their own styles, each is unique as a fingerprint. Traces of the writers one reads in one’s formative years remain, but the rhythm of each writer’s thoughts—an expression of his or her brain waves, I think—eventually becomes dominant.”
P.S.: In a Paris Review interview, E. B. White said that he thought style could not be taught. He said, “Style results more from what a person is than from what he knows.”
NO PICTURES: Alan Moore, the British author of the graphic novels Watchmen and V for Vendetta, will publish a non-graphic novel, Jerusalem, next year. Moore was quoted in The New York Times saying that the novel is intended to “disprove the existence of death.”
ALLEGORY: James Wood’s The Nearest Thing to Life will be published in April. The literary critic wrote in the March 23 New Yorker: “Allegory’s function is to point us toward another meaning. . . . So allegory is antinovelistic, because it points away from its own story, toward another story. Curiously, and despite its reputation, allegory is not suggestive. It is literal.”
Wood was writing about Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant and concluded that “its allegory manages somehow to be at once too literal and too vague—a magic rare but unwelcome.”
PRO-VILLIANS: Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the author of Heretic. She was interviewed in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review and asked who was her favorite fictional hero or heroine. She said,” Heroes and heroines are boring and forgettable, villains are much more interesting. Count Fosco in The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, is a clever villain, evil but likeable.”
CUT THE CUSSING: A new e-reader app allows users to replace offensive words with more acceptable alternatives. In a piece headed “This freakin' app can sanitize the [heck] out of any book”, Ron Charles of The Washington Post reported that the app was the brainchild of Jared and Kirsten Maugham when their daughter began to read books that had swear words in them. Page Foundry, a Chicago firm, helped create the profanity-filtering program.
The Guardian said damn is changed to darn. Another sample: “’Don’t tempt me, you little bastard,’ growled Vyder.” Bastard becomes jerk.
NEW TRIO: Robyn Carr is the author of more than 50 novels. Her latest romance is the bestselling One Wish. Carr and her husband live in Las Vegas and have two children.
Carr said on the Internet that the fictional towns she writes about, Thunder Point and Virgin River, are appealing because they have of a sense of community—“the people are never afraid because they have each other.”
Carr has edited one book of nonfiction: Practical Tips for Writing Popular Fiction (1993). Another novel, A New Hope, will be out on June 30 and her third for this year will be Wildest Dreams, due out August 15.
TOUGH: A quote from William Faulkner: “If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the Ode on a Grecian Urn is worth any number of old ladies.”
ABOUT BUCKS: A cartoon of a grinning old man, floating on a bed piled high with greenbacks, was on the cover of The New York Times Book Review about money.
Mohsin Hamid, author of Discontent and Its Civilizations and a columnist, wrote, “For writers, money woes are the world outside tugging on us, yanking at the tails we have buried deep in our throats, reminding us that the world within is an illusion. And we resent this. We possess the knowledge that the world outside is an illusion too. We long, without quite admitting it, to disappear inside ourselves. We long to create. We resist being created.”
READING LIST: The BBC’s International Arts website named 1925 as the greatest year in the history of literature.
The Guardian started the list with Ernest Hemingway’s first book, In Our Time. Then came Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans; John Dos Passos’s Manhattan Transfer, Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, and Sinclair Lewis’s Arrowsmith.
All of those authors were Americans except Virginia Woolf. But a lot of great books were in the works around the world.
TRANSLATORS: Joseph Epstein is the author of Masters of the Games: Essays and Stories on Sport.”
In The Wall Street Journal, he wrote, “Without translators all but the omniglot among us would be hopelessly parochial. Even after having lived for decades off their labors, one struggles to name more than a half a dozen or so laborers in this ill-paid field. One begins with Constance Garnett, who brought the great Russian writers into the Anglophone world; Willard Trask, who did superior work in both German and French; Gregory Rabassa, who translated Latin American writers, William Weaver for modern Italian literature; Richmond Lattimore, David Grene, Robert Fitzgerald and Robert Fagles for Greek and Latin, with Benjamin Jowett still the main man for Greek philosophy.”
Then Epstein said “the supreme figure in the annuals of modern translation is C. K. Scott Moncrieff, translator into English of Marcel Proust’s monumental seven-volume novel A la Recherche du Temps Perdu.”
BECOMING AN AUTHOR: Joseph Kanon’s Leaving Berlin is his seventh historical thriller and a bestseller. Before he began writing in the mid-1990s, he was an editor and publisher.
He was quoted in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review saying he never told anyone when he was writing his first novel. “I didn’t even tell my wife. I didn’t known if I could do it. What could be more embarrassing than a publisher who couldn’t write?” His first novel was Los Alamos (1997) and it turned out to be a megaseller.
MORE BARRY: Another collection of columns by Dave Barry is titled Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer Is Much Faster). It’s a bestseller.
Barry told Steve Cochran on WGN Radio in Chicago, “I’ve always said that the title of all my books should be Another Dave Barry Book by Dave Barry, because it’s entirely random. I end up writing a foreword where I pretend that there’s actually some connection between the essays in the book, when there really clearly is not. Fortunately, I was an English major. I was trained to do exactly this kind of thing, Steve, where I could take, as an English major, any book written by any author in any language anywhere in the world, and write about twenty or thirty pages about it without having a clue what was in that book.”
TRADING: To mark World Poetry Day on March 21, thousands of cafés around the world agreed to trade a cup of coffee for a poem.
The celebration was promoted by a Viennese coffee-roasting company, Julius Meinl, that was founded in 1862. The Guardian said it was not clear whether cashiers would be judging the quality of a poem before pouring a cup, but imagined one estimating its market value: “The haiku is very nicely turned, but I don’t think it will stretch to a skinny frappuccino extra-grande with the extra slice of melon.”
FOUND: Madrid investigators said they had found the bones of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. Serge Schmemann of The New York Times suggested a monument that bears words from the dying writer’s final novel: “Farewell, waggish jokes; farewell, wittiness; farewell, merry friends, for I am dying and longing soon to see you, happy in the life to come.”