At Page Turner, Maria Bustillos weighs in on the controversy surrounding Isaac Fitzgerald’s hiring as Buzzfeed’s books editor—and his declaration to publish only positive reviews—with a bit of background context: “It bears mentioning that Fitzgerald’s views are very much in line with those of the San Francisco literary establishment whence he hails. The influential essay by Heidi Julavits, published more than a decade ago in the Believer, ‘Rejoice! Believe! Be Strong and Read Hard!‘ was written explicitly against ‘snark’ and in favor of more positive book reviewing.”
Joseph Brodsky dropped out of school after finishing seventh grade, but he famously held his poetry students to high academic standards, forcing them to memorize and transcribe up to four pages of 19th-century Russian poetry overnight. If you aspire to Brodsky’s level of rigor, you can check out his reading list for having an “intelligent conversation.”
Are smartphones ruining fiction? Writer Robert Lanham thinks so: “I find it impossible to write fiction that’s set after 2002. Not because I’m a Gen-X-er waxing nostalgic… It’s just that it’s inconceivable to depict contemporary times authentically without including interludes where characters stare at their cell phones instead of advancing their plotlines—their lives—towards some conclusion. Which is, as a thing to read, mind-numbingly dull. Unless I write ‘and then his Galaxy 4’s battery died,’no one can ever get lost, forget an important fact, meet a partner outside of a dating site, or do anything that doesn’t eventually have them picking up a phone.”
The New York Times profiles Daniel Alarcon, a young Peruvian writer who writes in English, and whose new novel, At Night We Walk in Circles, is out this month.
And speaking of the Times, the paper has named staffer Tanzina Vega as its first beat reporter on race and ethnicity.
The New Yorker’s Mary Norris sits in on a round of Literary Jeopardy at McNally Jackson, with editors Lorin Stein and Edwin Frank facing off against Bookforum contributor Ruth Franklin and former Bookforum editor Eric Banks.