In the current issue of the New York Review of Books, there’s an intriguing exchange between the editor of Hanya Yanagihara’s novel A Little Life and Daniel Mendelsohn, one of the critics Jennifer Weiner recently accused of “Goldfinching” (delegitimizing even literary fiction if it’s popular with large numbers of women) for his critical review of Yanagihara’s book. Howard seems to agree with Weiner: “Mendelsohn seems to have decided that A Little Life just appeals to the wrong kind of reader. That’s an invidious distinction unworthy of a critic of his usually fine discernment.” Mendelsohn replies, citing an account in Kirkus Reviews of Howard’s early suggestions (not taken) for cuts to Yanagihara’s manuscript, that: “It can be neither pleasant nor easy for Gerald Howard to have to defend his author’s now popular and acclaimed book against a complaint that he himself made as it was being written: that the preposterous excess of humiliation and suffering heaped on the protagonist by its author (along with the character’s improbable array of compensatory expertises) both defies verisimilitude and alienates the sensible reader.”
Booker winner Marlon James, incidentally, sees the question of a certain kind of woman reader differently from Weiner, noting on Facebook recently that “we writers of colour spend way too much of our lives pandering to the white woman. . . . The last contest I judged, the initial favourite was yet again, ‘bored suburban white woman in the middle of ennui, experiences keenly observed epiphany.’ And though we’ll never admit it, every writer of colour knows that they stand a higher chance of getting published if they write this kind of story. We just do.”
James recently had a conversation about writing with Jeanette Winterson for The Guardian. Where, incidentally, you can also read Arundhati Roy’s strange account (with pictures) of her meeting with Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg, and the actor John Cusack.
n+1 has an interesting appraisal of the poet Michael Robbins.
There is now an awful lot of interest in what it’s like to be Ta-Nehisi Coates, whether it’s analysis of attempts to hire him away from the Atlantic or a session of audio soul-searching, on the This American Life podcast, between Coates and an old friend who fears his success might change him.
Dani Shapiro rereads Elizabeth Hardwick’s Sleepless Nights: “Action, Aristotle once wrote, is not plot, but merely the result of pathos. And pathos is what forms Sleepless Nights. Pathos does not exist in a temporal reality. Nor is it linear. It moves along a poetic circuitry that creates itself, much the same way consciousness does. ‘If I want a plot,’ Hardwick once commented in a Paris Review interview, ‘I’ll watch Dallas.’”
And speaking of Paris Review interviews, you can read a tantalizing snippet from Christian Lorentzen’s conversation with Gordon Lish (“I saw in Carver’s pieces something I could fuck around with”), to be published in the next issue.
America, perhaps distracted by Kobe Bryant’s poetic farewell to basketball, seems to have overlooked another poet right under its nose: Thanks to Hart Seely, we can all soon read the words of Donald Trump as they were meant to be read, in verse (it was Seely who, a few years back, did the same for Donald Rumsfeld). Bard of the Deal will be out Dec 15.