We are a little late on This Week in Books, what with the post-Thanksgiving food coma and Christmas tree procuring, but there were tons of great links last week, so let’s check out what all happened.
Also, a bit of a programming change. I’m in crunch-time mode for the delivery of JACOB WONDERBAR #2, and will need more minutes out of the day to spare for writing and editing. So I’m going to move over to a Monday/Wednesday/Friday blog schedule for December, and am hopeful to get back on our regular programming come January.
The big news of the week was that HarperCollins sued Gawker for posting excerpts from Sarah Palin’s new book, following Palin’s tweet, “Isn’t that illegal?” A federal judge subsequently ordered Gawker to take down the excerpts in advance of a hearing, and Harper and Gawker ended up settling the lawsuit. Gawker agreed not to post the excerpt in the future, and no word on any financial considerations.
And Borders announced that they were closing seventeen more stores, though they also announced that they will be using Google’s Local Availability to create a more interactive shopping experience.
Slate had an excerpt of a fantastic article by Chad Harbach that is running in n+1, about the rise of MFA programs and the literary balance of power between the MFA world and the New York publishing industry, and its effects on writers and literature. Some really great insights, factoids, and analysis and I highly, highly recommend reading it all the way through. Best factoid: did you know that the number of degree-granting creative writing programs has risen from 79 in 1975 to 854 now?
Your friend and mine The Rejectionist is having another uncontest, this one a Participatory Self-Actualization Opportunity wherein she is hosting pre-resolutions for the New Year. Because all resolutions are likely best if they are pre-tried. Also, don’t miss the Rejectionist’s The Book Release Party: A Tragic Monologue.
In agent and publishing advice news, Jessica Faust at BookEnds has an interesting post on the what-to-knows about launching your book via the Kindle, The Write Thing has an extensive post about creating a writing bible (via GalleyCat), and Eric from Pimp My Novel gives you everything you need to know about returns (and why debut authors shouldn’t necessarily wish for their demise).
In an article for Shrinking Violet Promotions, my former client Jennifer Hubbard talks a bit about how to build a following online, and also reveals a bit about how she and I maintained our separate blog presences while also maintaining a positive working relationship that kept the things that needed to be confidential confidential. Jennifer also rounded up four YA novels where the main boy character is a nice, good guy.
The Lonely Planet had a roundup of their choices for the Top 10 bookstores in the world, and the LA Times book blog has an incredible photo of Lello Bookshop in Lisbon, one of the honorees.
And blogger Metalia has a hilarious post and two great cover ideas for her book idea for a book about a year of reading books about people doing weird things for a year.
This week in the Forums, don’t forget about the Query Critique Forum, where there are people helping each other perfect their query and offer feedback for each other. Some other topics of discussion this week: some people somehow find a way to upstage the Turducken (warning, the video isn’t for the faint of meat), our favorite mis-heard song lyrics, discussing muses and being the creator vs. the channel for creation of writing, and now that NaNoWriMo is just about over (congrats to all participants!), discussing successful post-NaNo strategies.
Comment! of! the! Week! goes to Nate Wilson, who had hilarious gallows humor about the post about the Nine Circles of Writing Hell:
It appears my circles have formed into a hellish Venn diagram from which my novels can never hope to escape. That’s not good, right?
And finally, this isn’t publishing related, but I found it extremely fascinating. It’s an evolving map that shows 88 years of the shifting red-blue divide (via TPM):
Have a great weekend! I mean, week!
Holy fudgsicles, Batman. 854?
Currently reading The Vast Fields of Ordinary. Dade seems quite nice. It's a good book.
I've only been to one store on the bookstore list (City Lights, natch) and I figure I shouldn't count on making it to the others. What about a USA list? I've been to Powells. I've spent hours in Austin's Bookpeople. And Prairie Lights from the city where I live, is pretty durn special.
And lastly, I'd like to live in a country where they don't celebrate Thanksgiving and I don't have to pretend to like my sister-in-law's lettuce, cabbage, onion, and mayo salad. New Zealand? Seems like such a nice place.
Fawn Neun says
Financial consideration? How much did Palin have to pay them to pimp her book for her?
Sierra McConnell says
I wondered if it was Turkey Coma or a similar variation of what got me. The Christmas TreeNiecepresent wrappingdecoration thing with one of Mom's hands being out of comission.
The Tree is only half-done, but the presents are wrapped, the Niece is back home, and the Thanksgiving meal went off without a hitch. (Except, my dad should not be trusted around a new mixer and boiled potaoes. Ever.)
Next year, mom does not need to hurt herself. We need to cosmicly plan these things somehow.
Hopefully you're not swimming in leftovers and here's to the upcoming egg nog and Christmas Cards! XD
Chad Harbach of Slate about MFA vs NYC whitewashes a set of extremes on a meandering jaunt through highbrow versus lowbrow. His slant leans toward lowbrow. Hidebound, bought into the debate he attempts to stand above, his view is as monochromatic as a science fiction convention in a university town.
Academia and New York City publishing and Hollywood filmmaking are the writing attention getters, where once upon a time there was only New York highbrow and later Hollywood lowbrow. But there's a whole wide world out there, regionalism or the writing program principle of People in Place counters mass culture lowbrow and literary highbrow. For instance, Franzen's writing blends into an artful nobrow synthesis; accessible on many levels, entertaining, and artistically appealing.
Literature has become so wide a field of thematic multiculturalism targeting niche interests that to say anything versus anything is a monocultural black and white bigotry.
And speaking of NaNoWriMo–I quite enjoyed Dave Eggers pep talk (just seen in my inbox).
Here's some bits:
"…and you have this one life, and during this one life, you should put your words down, and make your voice heard, and then let others hear your voice. And the only way any of that's going to happen is if you actually do it. People can't read the thoughts in your head. They can only read the thoughts you put down, carefully and with great love, on the page. So you have to do it, goddamnit. You have to do it, and you can step back and be happy. You can step back and relax. You can step back and feel something like pride."
Did I post too much? I'm sorry. Had a hard time picking just what to post. It was all so good.
Sommer Leigh says
As usual, these links are awesome.
I especially love the video although I was surprised to see the red leaking out of my home state in the last few years. It seems like my state has become MORE saturated in red to the point where I feel like a lone blue drop at the bottom of the paint bucket. Maybe things are shifting in the votes I wasn't previously aware of.
Wanda B. Ontheshelves says
Re: MFA vs NYC and "…to submit to an unconscious yet powerful pressure toward readability."
I needed a big laugh this morning, and this phrase gave it to me. I recently interviewed someone about just these kinds of issues – and then Iowa has put out a call for submissions, for reminiscences about the workshop experience, for the 25th, 50th (not sure) anniversary of the workshop.
Oh dear me. Do they really want to know?
I like this: "But there's a whole wide world out there, regionalism or the writing program principle of People in Place counters mass culture lowbrow and literary highbrow."
I wonder though where "People in Place" is a writing program principle? Anon, can you expand on this?
I think of MFA programs in two words: Soul Destruction.
I mean really: "For the MFA writer, then, publishing a book becomes not a primary way to earn money or even a direct attempt to make money. The book instead serves as a credential."
(runs screaming from the room) (at the truth of it all)
Linda Gray says
Thanks so much for the link to the Slate article. It hit on some serious questions I've been wondering about, and left me feeling I'd been handed another piece of the puzzle in figuring out the sea-change we've been intuiting re: a writer's life.
Wanda B. Ontheshelves,
I've encountered the People in Place concept grazing creative writing programs' Web sites and from personal experience. Though not always as clearcut as to be a prompt or rubric, it's there in the subtext of writing and literature curriculum expectations.
The academic emphasis on character genre over event genre distinguishes the MFA versus NYC debate. Character and setting genre is the emphasis of regionalism. Regionalism's strength derives from its specificity of place for providing exotic secondary settings for reader entertainment.
Franzen for example, his thematic constant is mid Western dysfunctional family life and the complications thereof that are universal to the modern nuclear family.
Metalia's post sounds interesting!
The answer to Sarah Palin's question is no, is it? Posting an excerpt of a book is covered under Fair Use.
February Grace says
Wonderbar 2 is in the hopper?!!! Awesomeness!
MFA vs. NYC
(on publishing giving up the patron style support of experimental work)
The death of David Foster Wallace could be said to mark the end of this quasi-popular tradition, at least temporarily. What one notices first about NYC-orbiting contemporary fiction is how much sense everyone makes. The best young NYC novelists go to great lengths to write comprehensible prose and tie their plots neat as a bow. How one longs, in a way, for endings like that of DeLillo's first novel, Americana, where everyone just pees on everyone else for no reason! The trend toward neatness and accessibility is often posited to be the consequence of the workshop's relentless paring. But for NYC writers—despite their degrees—it might be better understood as the result of fierce market pressure toward the middlebrow, combined with a deep authorial desire to communicate to the uninterested. The NYC writer knows that to speak obliquely is tantamount to not speaking at all; if anyone notices her words, it will only be to accuse her of irrelevance and elitism. She doesn't worry about who might read her work in 20 years; she worries about who might read it now. She's thrown her economic lot in with the publishers, and the publishers are very, very worried. Who has both the money to buy a hardcover book and the time to stick with something tricky? Who wants to reread Faulknerian sentences on a Kindle, or scroll back to pick up a missed plot point? Nobody, says the publisher. And the NYC novelist understands—she'd better understand, or else she'll have to move to Cleveland.
Don't forget to pace yourself N.
Rush when possible, rest when the story requires it.
I read the MFA article, and all I could think was, "My gods, it's full of snark."
J. T. Shea says
You're taking time off from blogging to write!? How dare you! Oh, wait…
So, you're finishing the sequel half a year before they publish the first book. And who said publishing was slow? Well, actually everybody, and it seems they're right.
The party political map is interesting, but both President Obama and Sarah Palin might be a little aggrieved it excludes their native states.
Now I have to take time off from writing to follow your addictive links. Damn you, Bransford! You're my publishing pusher! There goes Monday evening.
Wait a minute, the first book isn't even out until May and you're already delivering number two?
No wonder this industry is in trouble. That makes zero sense.
Jennifer R. Hubbard says
Thanks for the shout out. I was glad to discover nice guys have a few fans out there.
I like that video, but it only reflects the presidential elections. Now they just need to work in the Congressional and gubernatorial and state-level races, which don't always go the same way as the national races. Yes, I'm excellent at assigning work to other people.
Carson Lee says
Thanks for the blue – red Map History. Very interesting. Gives one perspective.
I live in one of those light red states that sends Blues to Washington except for when our voters are convinced it doesn't matter. It's an interesting dynamic.
Susan Kaye Quinn says
I'm kind of excited you are taking time for Wonderbar Take 2. Although I'll miss the Tu/Th posts, I love that you're focusing on writing – just like us! 🙂
D.G. Hudson says
Thanks for the links, Nathan. Every week, at least the last two, you have a new surprise for us. Makes one wonder what's next.
It's understandable that you need to prioritize your time for your writing, it's just hard for your followers to miss their daily 'Nathan fix'.
Why anyone cares about anything to do with Sarah Palin is beyond me. . .
The Writing Bible post was excellent information, although I'm sure I've seen it before. It's something I've done along with my outline/mapping. It helps me keep my facts in line.
Looking forward to Wednesday.
Strangely, the map reminded me of epidemic patterns.
The "Year of Reading Books About People Doing Something For a Year" was actually attempted by actor/blogger/former MTV VJ Dave Holmes, who seems to have gotten stuck on reading a book about not having sex. His site is here:
Especially funny is the interlude where he was following all the advice in Men's Health magazine.
Hate to be a nuisance , but I was wondering….
In regards to a writer's unique 'voice' , do you think you could pick your regular commenter's out if they all wrote anonymously ?
Other Lisa says
From the MFA vs. NYC article, this:
Thus the literary-corporate publishing industry comes to replicate the prevailing economic logic, in which the rich get richer and the rest live on hope and copy-editing.
Nails it. Coming out of the film industry and having my first publishing experience, I've really noticed the parallels. And the way the publishing industry is replicating the economic model of the country as a whole…this is something that other writer friends and I have been saying loudly and often.
It's really a sad logic and not in my opinion the best way to create a sustainable industry over time, and that goes double for its illogic as an economic model for the entire country.
Sheila Cull says
How much book editing (hiring a professional) as opposed to actual writing did Palin do/does?
Wanda B. Ontheshelves says
Re: "The academic emphasis on character genre over event genre distinguishes the MFA versus NYC debate."
Oh well I'm in SE Michigan, I guess I'm in the midst of a SE MI versus MFA/NYC debate myself.
But thanks for the clarification.
Kristi Helvig says
I love the map–it reinforced what my husband tells me when I'm upset about any given election. He says to hold on because pendulums always swing back again.
Good luck with writing/editing book #2, Nathan! I can't wait for my son to read the first one. 🙂
Daniel Smith says
Earth to Sarah Palin: What Gawker did is called Fair Use and it's perfectly legal in the USA.
Bryan Russell (Ink) says
Interesting article on MFA vs. New York. May have to write about that soon. Or maybe I'm just nostalgic…
Okay, I took down my post because I have a bad cold and it's finals week, and I'm over-reacting. Sorry. In fact, I remembered I was bugging you a few months ago to pace things and not overwork yourself. So, that's good that you're doing that.
This really is an amazing assortment of links. So much information and fun stuff. Thank you!
I don't know that you should be linking that list of the best bookstores in the world as it has clearly failed so completely it deserves mention nowhere.
I went there sort of assuming Powell's would be #1, only to find it wasn't even on the list!
I was going to post in the comments there to ask what the major malfunction was in the head of whoever compiled it, but it seemed EVERY SINGLE other commenter had already done so.
For the record (and I believe I've said it here before), Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon is the single greatest bookstore in North America if not the world. There are no caveats or conditions to this. No exceptions. You step into Powell's and all you thought you knew about bookstores changes forever.
Matthew Rush says
So in other words, we're now facing an age of less Nathan, less often? This can't be good, and I feel betrayed.
Just kidding man. I can't imagine blogging at the level you have for all those years, while still doing everything else.
Props. Mad props is what you've earned.
Not that we won't miss the posts, but aught eleven will be here pretty soon.
Wait. Does that even make sense? Aught eleven? That's not nearly as cool as eleventy one.
The MFA program I'm in (Seton Hill's Writing Popular Fiction) rocks. It has next to nothing to do with this article.