When Popular Fiction Isn’t Popular: Genre, Literary, and the Myths of Popularity | Electric Literature

There is an odd cognitive dissonance that happens in these conversations, where we are simultaneously supposed to believe that literary fiction is “mainstream fiction” and genre fiction is “ghettoized,” and also that literary fiction is a niche nobody reads while genre authors laugh all the way to the bank.

When Popular Fiction Isn’t Popular: Genre, Literary, and the Myths of Popularity | Electric Literature

A book exists at the intersection of the author’s subconscious and the reader’s response. An author’s career exists in the same way. A writer worries away at a jumble of thoughts, building them into a device that communicates, but the writer doesn’t know what’s been communicated until it’s possible to see it communicated.

William Gibson. Reminds me of Umberto Eco:

I always assume that a good book is more intelligent than its author. It can say things that the writer is not aware of.

And Montaigne:

An able reader often discovers in other men’s writings perfections beyond those that the author put in or perceived, and lends them richer meanings and aspects.

G&G Me With a Buccellati Silver Spoon! The OA Editor Takes Down the Competition :: Oxford American

An extended, worthwhile critique/rant on Garden & Gun. OA Editor Marc Smirnoff talks a bit about willful editorial blind spots, like G&G’s intentional avoidance of politics, religion, and football. And race:

The South’s progress since 1966 is what needs to be celebrated, not the fact that a native magazine ignored the historic issues and deep struggles of the era. The growth in consciousness wasn’t a pretty process—wasn’t pretty enough for the pages of Southern Living—and it wasn’t even a process that all wanted. But nothing, in the end, has made the South more “civilized” and “gracious” than that growth.


G&G Me With a Buccellati Silver Spoon! The OA Editor Takes Down the Competition :: Oxford American

Silva rerum – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Silva Rerum (diary) of Krassowscy family from Ziemia Drohicka in Podlasie, Poland.

In historical Poland [silva rerum] was written by members of the Polish nobility as a diary or memoir for the entire family, recording family traditions, among other matters; they were not intended for a wider audience of printing (although there were a few exceptions); some were also lent to friends of the family, who were allowed to add their comments to them. It was added to by many generations, and contained various information: diary-type entires on current events, memoirs, letters, political speeches, copies of legal documents, gossips, jokes and anecdotes, financial documents, economic information (price of grain, etc.), philosophical musings, poems, genealogical trees, advice (agricultural, medical, moral) for the descendants and others – the wealth of information in silva is staggering, they contain anything that their authors wished to record for future generations).

This blew my mind a little bit. A private book for multiple generations! Fascinating.

Lately, I’ve been wondering if sitting quietly in a café, pretending to read a newspaper, and not writing is the most earnest expression in our age: no echoes of language, nothing to reblog, just pure unmitigated self sitting with self. I might, after a time of blank staring, find myself constructing a sentences in my head, maybe a paragraph, simply letting the words roll around in my mind. I will not. I repeat. I will not write them down. They are my secret sentences, not yours.

Faint Praise: The Plight of Book Reviewing in America (3.5/5)

Each chapter of Faint Praise features a measured, workmanlike argument about topics like book selection, or matching reviewers and books, or the ethical minefields of the industry. Surprisingly thoughtful but not exciting. Gail Pool doesn’t work up much outrage or seem very enthusiastic about the status of the book reviewing trade. She doesn’t spend a lot of time critiquing (or celebrating) review per se; the focus is more on the industrial machinery and how book reviews get squeezed. But occasionally in this “towering achievement” she does offer “compelling” indictments of modern reviewing crutches, rendered in “luminous prose” that “leaves the reader breathless” (for example).
The final verdict is that book reviewing is important, it’s needed, and it’s under-valued, but that won’t change until… uh, things change.

Read more in James Wolcott’s better review:

If Faint Praise has a virtuous flaw, it’s that it thinks too small, is too practical-minded, and doesn’t make ample room for the occasional healthy rampage. It lays so much stress on the stringencies of book reviewing, the shortfalls and iron deficiencies of the form, that it is hard to understand why anyone other than a masochist, a worker drone, or an antennae-quivering opportunist would take it up except to notch a byline. Its funky sense of battle fatigue reflects the mood in the editorial trenches, where nothing beckons on the horizon except more bad news. Even the title, Faint Praise, sounds wan and droopy, as if the most that reviews can achieve now is to rack up small yardage, provide a useful service. We’re going to have to make do with making do, is the book’s sober message.

It’s sober, all right. Where is the swashbuckling fun, the exploding scoreboard, the whisking pirouettes? So focused is Faint Praise on institutional woes, incremental change, and improvements in quality control that it scants the virtuoso individuality that makes book reviewing a more interesting activity than, say, raking leaves.