by Campbell Geeslin
The Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, who died in 1977, has been compared to Virginia Woolf and Kalfka. She was the author of nine novels, and a collection, The Complete Stories, has just been published.
Larry Rohter wrote about her “slightly askew” similes in The New York Times: “’He was correct like a tennis court,’ she writes, or ‘the air between Eduardo and her tasted like Saturday.’ Monkeys are ‘as happy as weeds,’ and human characters are ‘blonde like a false coin’ or indulge in ‘daydreaming as keen as a crime.’ Then there is this gem: ‘They treated me as if I already lived in their future hotel and were offended I hadn’t paid.’”
WHEN TO DIE: Jordan Harper is the author of a collection of short stories, Love and Other Wounds, which PW said “almost read like Murder Ballads.”
Asked what he finds so compelling about doom, Harper replied, “I always try to give hope its place in stories; I just don’t think it always wins.
“I remember reading that a short story should take place on the most important day in a person’s life. For people who live [a life of crime] the day they die is going to be that day.”
AN EXHANGE: Greg Neri is the author of Tru & Nelle, a novel about the childhood of Truman Capote and Harper Lee. Neri, author of six books for teenagers, told The New York Times, “It was kind of sitting there, and I couldn’t believe no one had taken it on.”
The novel begins with their first meeting in Monroeville, when Truman was seven and Nelle was six. It ends “with a dramatic scene with hooded Ku Klux Klan members arriving at a Halloween party that Truman was hosting.”
The two children write stories that they exchange and both chose a literary life. Toward the end of Neri’s novel, he suggests that they became writers after Tru said: “I’ll make you a deal; I’ll write, but only if you promise to write as well. Then we can mail each other our stories.”
Publication will be next spring.
PLENTY OF HELP: Amitav Ghosh, 59, has just published the third and last volume in a series, Flood of Fire. “Ten years in the making,” The Wall Street Journal said, “the trilogy describes the clash of cultures that occur . . . when China tried to stop the British from bringing in opium from India.”
Ghosh, who lives in Brooklyn, did research in Singapore, Hong Kong and Guangzhou. He said, “The strange thing about China is that it’s very easy to get around but nobody tells you that.” Few people spoke English, but they were willing to help him find his way. “We get so used to thinking of New York as this enormous built environment, but when you arrive in Guangzhou, it’s about twenty New Yorks.”
ON THE NOVEL: Jose Ortega y Gasset is the author of Notes on the Novel (1925). Liesl Schillinger quotes him in her August 16 New York Times Bookends column. “Today, in the great hour of the decline of the genre, good novels and poor ones differ very much indeed. . . . The novel . . . is one of the few fields that may still yield illustrious fruits, more exquisite ones perhaps than were ever garnered in previous harvests.”
Schillinger added, “In my view, the field of literature has thrived even more than Ortega predicted, strengthened by the novel’s new hybrid varieties. It is not a battlefield; it is an orchard, and its boughs are heavy with fruit.”
Schillinger is the author of Wordbirds.
PLANTING CLUES: Yukito Ayatsuji is the author of The Dragon House Murders, in which, PW said, “seven mystery writers are trapped on a Japanese island with a fiendishly clever killer.” Ayatsuji said, “I am a big fan of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None [also known as Ten Little Indians], so I had the idea of doing an homage. A group of young people gathered on an island, killed one by one by an unknown murderer.”
Ayatsuji was asked how he went about planting fair clues. He said, “The rule I have laid out for myself when writing is to never present false information in the third-person narrator. That’s the very least I need to do to ensure the mystery lot is fair toward the readers. From these, I add lines at the key parts of the story intended to mislead the readers, lines that usually have double meanings. If you change your way of looking at them, the misdirection changes into a hint pointing toward the solution.”
CURIE ABANDONED: Paula McLain is the author of Circling the Sun, a new and bestselling novel. It’s about Beryl Markham, who flew across the Atlantic in 1936. McLain was quoted in The Cleveland Plain Dealer as saying that she had abandoned a novel about Marie Curie. “I admired her so much, but nothing ever came alive.” Apparently, McLain’s editor felt the same way, “She kept saying, ‘Oh, my God, the science is so boring,” McLain said.
SMARTER OLD DOGS: Susan Pinker writes a Mind & Matter column for The Wall Street Journal. She asked, “Is the saying ‘Older but wiser’ just an old wives’ tale?”
New research, published in Psychological Science, suggests that we are getting slower and wiser at the same time.” As our hair begins to silver (and sometimes falls out), our vocabularies continue to grow, peaking as late as age 70.”
Pinker concludes, “If humans continue to learn into their seventh decade, then at least one platitude is untrue. You can teach an old dog new tricks.”
HOT ITEM: Dr. Seuss’s What Pet Should I Get sold 200,000 copies in a week, theguardian.com said. Random House books said What Pet is the fastest-selling picture book in its history.
Two more books from Seuss material found in 2013 will be published, but no dates have yet been announced.
SUSPENSE SELLER: Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train was released in the U.S. last January and has sold 3 million copies in the U.S. alone. It was the top-selling e- book in the first quarter of 2015. The story is told by three unreliable narrators. Alexandra Alter in The New York Times wrote, “It is highly unusual for an unknown author to sell with such speed. Ms. Hawkins, who lives in London, had published several other novels under a pen name, but was not well known when she came up with the idea for The Girl on the Train during her morning rail commute.”
GROWING FAST: Amazon Publishing now has 14 imprints in six cities and plans to publish about 1,200 titles this year.
Fiction has been the main genre, PW said, but Amazon Publishing is also increasing nonfiction, memoir and biography.
MEMOIR: George Braziller, 90, is the author of Encounters: My Life in Publishing. He told PW: “I feel good about the book. I’m not a writer. This book took me five years sitting in this room [of his East Side Apartment]. Since I’m no longer a publisher now I tend to think like a writer. I’m always complaining to my publisher [his sons], ‘Why are you rushing me?’”
The book is a series of vignettes, with photographs, that tell Braziller’s life and career through his recollections of the people he worked with and the writers and artists he published.
NEW CONTENT: In an article about the increasingly complex subject matter appearing in young adult books, PW quoted Sarah Davies, an agent at Greenhouse Literary. “What we want in a book is to experience something strong, something we’ve not experienced before—to be gripped and compelled to turn those pages under covers.”
NICE WORK: Jonathan Galassi is the publisher of Farrar, Straus and Giroux and the author of a novel, Muse, about the book business.
He told PW, “I love what I do. At the heart of publishing are still the editor and the author, the editor falling in love with the author’s work, and doing the best he or she can to dress it up as beautifully as possible and get it to its readers. That’s still what publishing is, and I have no intention of stopping.”
SEX SOLD: Before 1958, Vladimir Nabokov was virtually unknown in the U.S. Then his novel, Lolita, sold 100,000 copies in its first three weeks and went on to sell millions of copies world-wide. It also guaranteed him a large audience not only for his future books but for his previous ones as well.
Now a new biography, Nabokov in America, by Ben Downing, has been published. “Nabokov is often hilarious and consistently strikes sparks from words that no one else could or would.” One sample is his description of two boys with the hots for Lolita as “gangling, golden-hair high school uglies, all muscles and gonorrhea.”
Chris Abani is the author of The Secret History of Las Vegas. He wrote in the August 16 New York Times Book Review: “Novels by recently arrived Americans have tried to negotiate the struggle to fit into a new home that doesn’t always want them, and the nostalgia for all that has been lost. In this way new immigrant literature mimics it antecedents.”
Abani, who was born in Nigeria and has lived in the U.S. since 1999, was reviewing Dragonfish by Vu Tran, who “represents a new departure, a renegotiation of terms in which the past is not a place of nostalgia but one that carries all the trauma of war, and the present is not enough to mitigate that.”