Tuesday Afternoon Links

Who Is Jacqueline Wilson? And should Americans read her? Moira Redmond thinks so:

Typically, Wilson’s are the type of books that kids like more than their wary parents and teachers do—she is the most-borrowed author in British public libraries because kids, who can’t afford to buy books, seek her out there. If young Americans could find them for themselves, they’d probably love them, too. But maybe adults (American and British) should be less wary: If they read the books with more attention, they might treat their children better. And swear never ever to get divorced.

And its name was Veronica . . . Also in Slate, Francine Prose takes a look at “The nightmarish vision of Mary Gaitskill.” In the process she contrasts our experience with “traditional” novels – plot driven, etc. – with unconventional ones:

There’s a way in which each novel we read enters into a conversation with every other novel we’ve read. Even though they may have been written in different eras and places, they can talk to one another because they speak essentially the same language: They follow a narrative arc, they include a cast of characters who may or may not remind us of people we know, and they create a world that in some sense mirrors the world outside the novel.

And then there are novels that speak a language entirely their own. We recognize them as novels, though we would have a hard time saying why that should be so. They may have some, or none, of the elements I’ve listed above, but these features seem almost extraneous or inessential. Beckett’s Molloy transferring his sucking stones from pocket to pocket is hardly what one would call a plot. The odd women in Two Serious Ladies all blither on in pretty much the same voice and seem to meld into one another, which is part of Jane Bowles’ intention. And the universe of Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo, one in which past and present blur and in which it hardly matters whether someone is alive or dead, makes Ulysses seem, by contrast, like Middlemarch. When we remember these untraditional novels, we tend to forget trivial and even relatively important details of story and character. What stays with us is an atmosphere, an emotion, the memory of how it felt to read the book and of what it was like to inhabit a particular sensibility—the mind of a character or of an author—for a certain period of time. Perhaps what we recall most vividly is how a writer’s language rose to meet the challenge of maintaining our interest without the conventions (suspense, and so forth) that more commonly sustain it.

Is it odd that the two lead characters are both the subject of Elvis Costello songs?

– We all know about Bookslut but what about Bookgasm? Are the two related . . .

– Are books – at least non-fiction – getting shorter and shorter? Tyler Cowen thinks so.

– The “most indefensible choice in the 36-year history of the contest”:

Yesterday the Man Booker judges made possibly the worst, certainly the most perverse, and perhaps the most indefensible choice in the 36-year history of the contest. By choosing John Banville’s The Sea, they selected an icy and over-controlled exercise in coterie aestheticism ahead of a shortlist, and a long list, packed with a plenitude of riches and delights.

This reminds me of an old SNL skit: Give it to me straight. Don’t sugar coat it. I can take it, tell me what you really think . . .

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season – oh, and watching golf too).

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