More things they said about books

Jeffrey Eugenides on critics and gender.

Well, over there [Eugenides points to his publisher’s book shelf] I see “NW” by Zadie Smith, and I think that Zadie Smith is treated exactly like one of the literary male authors that had been brought into this category. It seems to me that there’s a difference between the kinds of books that Jonathan Franzen writes and Jodi Picoult writes – so it’s not surprising to me that they’re treated differently in terms of review coverage or literary coverage. I don’t think that’s based on gender. Jeffrey Eugenides responding to Salon’s David Daley’s question about whether male and female writers are treated differently by reviewers

Doug Barry on what Jeffrey Eugenides really meant

You see, there are these books that Smart People Read, and then there are the other books, which is why we couldn’t possibly equate Jonathan Franzen with Jodi Picoult because Franzen writes LITERATURE and Picoult writes the book that your mother will most likely take to the beach. Doug Barry writing in Jezebel analysing Eugenides’ interview with David Daley.

Junot Diaz on whether it’s all about me.

Each narrative mode has its benefits and its dangers. Third person, for example, runs the risk always of being dreadfully etiolated and sounding like it’s been dipped for a decade in an acid bath made up of the pulped voices of 1,001 old dead white males. Third person runs the risk always of being something that doesn’t dance. And first person clearly is always in danger of becoming a narcissistic pinhole, an all-or-nothing bargain. But again, I don’t think one writer’s preference says much about what is possible in the form.

One thinks of the grandeur of Ellison’s Invisible Man, first person, and the mad intelligence of Nabokov’s Lolita, and also of the brainy, frenetic insouciance of Stephenson’s Snow Crash, third person, and it becomes clear that neither first nor third has any monopoly on greatness, on piercing our bifrost hearts. When one considers how third person in some Victorian novels was little more than a masked first person — with the third-person persona even addressing the Dear Reader — one is reminded that the two modes have a lot more in common than one might think. Ultimately the power of a narrative mode derives not from some theoretical default setting but from how its practitioner deploys it. Junot Diaz talking on Nicolas Miriello of the Huffington Poast about writing in the first person. Diaz’s latest book is This is How You Lose Her. 

Sir Peter Stothard on the varying value of critics

“Criticism needs confidence in the face of extraordinary external competition. It is wonderful that there are so many blogs and websites devoted to books, but to be a critic is to be importantly different than those sharing their own taste… Not everyone’s opinion is worth the same.” The rise of blogging has proved particularly worrying, he says. “Eventually that will be to the detriment of literature. It will be bad for readers; as much as one would like to think that many bloggers opinions are as good as others. It just ain’t so. People will be encouraged to buy and read books that are no good, the good will be overwhelmed, and we’ll be worse off. There are some important issues here.” Man Booker Prize chairman Sir Peter Stothard in The Independent

David Lister on why Sir Peter Stothard needs to get out more

Just as bad as implicitly dismissing the artistic wealth of cinema is the lack of curiosity in not wanting to understand and embrace a culture that is supremely important to most of the nation. If nothing else, surely one should have a disinterested need to keep up with what is entertaining and exciting the mass of people on a daily basis. A natural curiosity would, I’m sure, have had Jane Austen and Charles Dickens down their local Odeon each week.” David Lister in The Independent reacting to Sir Peter’s admission that he had only ever seen six films in his lifetime.

Christopher Koch reinforcing the overwhelming power of movies today.

Christopher Koch has won the Miles Franklin Literary Award twice, for The Doubleman in 1985 and Highways to War 11 years later, but mention to acquaintances that you are heading down to Tasmania to meet him and the response is: “I loved The Year of Living Dangerously.” It’s an enthusiasm the author has mixed feelings about. For starters, he wonders if they mean his 1978 novel or the Peter Weir film, with Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hunt in her Oscar-winning role that came out four years later. “If a book is made into a film, they hang it around your neck forever,” Koch says. “I’ve written other books since that I think might be better, but people always come back to that one and it’s because it was a film. That’s how much film dominates our culture.” Stephen Romei interviewing Christopher Koch in The Weekend Australian.


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