• July 9, 2015

    Ben Marcus discusses the new anthology of American stories he has edited: “There is an awful set of questions around the short story and its accepted irrelevance (against the novel) and its commercial inferiority. I just fucking hate it all. I hate that it’s even a conversation.”

    At Politico, Dylan Byers has a report on whether, if we all stopped paying attention to Donald Trump, he would go away.

    Under the leadership of their editorial director Amy O’Leary, a recent New York Times escapee, Upworthy has been moving away from clickbait headlines and toward more original stories. That means hiring more writers and fewer “curators,” but it also means getting more manipulative, not less: Going through the “user data,” their staffers try “to understand things such as how emotions impact how users consume stories, what motivates people to take action around content they find meaningful, and what is the best way to structure stories to take advantage of different platforms.” After the fact, they “go through the metrics of every story” to figure out exactly the places where it started losing readers’ attention—the point where someone commits to reading the whole piece, O’Leary says, is “a very interesting narrative moment”; if you went to make a snack halfway through, she wants to know that too. In the future, we’ll no doubt write books this way.

    Meanwhile, a letter from a writer of the old school, Jack Kerouac, is being sold at auction—bids opened today. There’s some discussion of his unfinished novel, Spotlight, and also some useful reminders for authors: Success, Kerouac writes, is “when you cant enjoy your food any more in peace. Ow.”

    After being played by Reese Witherspoon in the film of her memoir Wild, Cheryl Strayed is still diversifying: You can already catch the audio version of her “Dear Sugar” advice column, which has been going for a few months, and as of this fall you can stop tattooing inspirational quotations from her work on yourself and just buy a whole book of them.

    And the novelist Chuck Palahniuk plans to start appearing as a character in the Fight Club 2 comic-book series, followed by his whole writing group: “Literary critics claim that Ken Kesey’s mental hospital in Cuckoo’s Nest and Toni Morrison’s plantation in Beloved represent those authors’ post-graduate writing workshops. To prevent anyone from thinking my own workshop is either a support group for the terminally ill or a bare-knuckle mosh pit, I’ve included it in Fight Club 2.”