Mullan sheds light on some of the true masterworks of contemporary fiction, including Monica Ali's Brick Lane, J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace, Don DeLillo's Underworld, Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Patricia Highsmith's Ripley under Ground, Ian McEwan's Atonement, John le Carre's The Constant Gardener, Philip Roth's The Human Stain, Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated, and Zadie Smith's White Teeth. He highlights how these acclaimed authors use some of the basic elements of fiction. Some topics (like plot, dialogue, or location) will appear familiar to most novel readers, while others (meta-narrative, prolepsis, amplification) will open readers' eyes to new ways of understanding and appreciating the writer's craft. Mullan also excels at comparing modern and classic authors--Nick Hornby's adoption of a female narrator is compared to Daniel Defoe's; Ian McEwan's use of weather is set against Austen's and Hardy's.
How Novels Work explains how the pleasures of novel reading often come from the formal ingenuity of the novelist, making visible techniques and effects we are often only half-aware of as we read. It is an entertaining and stimulating volume that will captivate anyone who is interested in the contemporary or the classical novel.
44 million words
10 billion years of history
1 obsessed man
Part memoir and part education (or lack thereof), "The Know-It-All" chronicles NPR contributor A.J. Jacobs's hilarious, enlightening, and seemingly impossible quest to read the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" from A to Z.
To fill the ever-widening gaps in his Ivy League education, A.J. Jacobs sets for himself the daunting task of reading all thirty-two volumes of the "Encyclopaedia Britannica." His wife, Julie, tells him it's a waste of time, his friends believe he is losing his mind, and his father, a brilliant attorney who had once attempted the same feat and quit somewhere around Borneo, is encouraging but, shall we say, unconvinced.
With self-deprecating wit and a disarming frankness, "The Know-It-All" recounts the unexpected and comically disruptive effects Operation Encyclopedia has on every part of Jacobs's life -- from his newly minted marriage to his complicated relationship with his father and the rest of his charmingly eccentric New York family to his day job as an editor at Esquire. Jacobs's project tests the outer limits of his stamina and forces him to explore the real meaning of intelligence as he endeavors to join Mensa, win a spot on Jeopardy!, and absorb 33,000 pages of learning. On his journey he stumbles upon some of the strangest, funniest, and most profound facts about every topic under the sun, all while battling fatigue, ridicule, and the paralyzing fear that attends his first real-life responsibility -- the impending birth of his first child.
"The Know-It-All" is an ingenious, mightily entertaining memoir of one man's intellect, neuroses, and obsessions and a soul-searching, ultimately touching struggle between the all-consuming quest for factual knowledge and the undeniable gift of hard-won wisdom.
Inside the Critics? Circle: Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times (Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology)
An inside look at the politics of book reviewing, from the assignment and writing of reviews to why critics think we should listen to what they have to say
Taking readers behind the scenes in the world of fiction reviewing, Inside the Critics' Circle explores the ways that critics evaluate books despite the inherent subjectivity involved, and the uncertainties of reviewing when seemingly anyone can be a reviewer. Drawing on interviews with critics from such venues as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post, Phillipa Chong delves into the complexities of the review-writing process, including the considerations, values, and cultural and personal anxieties that shape what critics do.
Chong explores how critics are paired with review assignments, why they accept these time-consuming projects, how they view their own qualifications for reviewing certain books, and the criteria they employ when making literary judgments. She discovers that while their readers are of concern to reviewers, they are especially worried about authors on the receiving end of reviews. As these are most likely peers who will be returning similar favors in the future, critics' fears and frustrations factor into their willingness or reluctance to write negative reviews.
At a time when traditional review opportunities are dwindling while other forms of reviewing thrive, book reviewing as a professional practice is being brought into question. Inside the Critics' Circle offers readers a revealing look into critics' responses to these massive transitions and how, through their efforts, literary values get made.
Ruin the Sacred Truths: Poetry and Belief from the Bible to the Present (Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures)
The biographers featured here are often no less legendary than their subjects: David Herbert Donald on Abraham Lincoln, Ron Chernow on John D. Rockefeller, Doris Kearns Goodwin on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, David McCullough on Harry Truman, Norman Mailer on Lee Harvey Oswald, Robert Caro on Lyndon Baines Johnson, and Katharine Graham and Frank McCourt on their own lives.
In his first book, "Booknotes: America's Finest Authors on Reading, Writing, and the Power of Ideas," Lamb showed a remarkable ability to elicit fascinating insights into the creative process from authors eager to explain their craft. In "Booknotes: Life Stories," Lamb extends his vision by taking an intimate look with our favorite biographers at the historical figures they've devoted their careers to portraying. He encourages these writers to open up about their methods, their sources of inspiration, and their fascinating subjects. As in the first book, Lamb's original questions have been omitted from the edited text, producing seamless conversational essays that allow the storyteller in each writer to fully emerge. Like Booknotes, this new book also includes full-colorphotographs by Brian Lamb that enrich our appreciation of these biographical portraits.
This volume highlights celebrated lives while also providing memorable portraits of the era in which each figure lived, lending a rare sense of immediacy to history. For instance, David Hackett Fischer, biographer of Paul Revere, reflects on the birth of an American myth and whether Revere's heroism actually took place as Longfellow recorded it in his famous poem "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere." In quoting Susan B. Anthony, Lynn Sherr shows how her activism profoundly changed America: "Once we get women to their full equality and independence, then men will be freer also. Families will be better off when men can stay home and do more of the child-rearing." Brian Lamb has achieved a deserved place in American letters for coaxing hundreds of writers from the anonymity of their writing studios into the living rooms of every American home. His interviews are themselves great biographies.
In June 2015 Alberto Manguel prepared to leave his centuries-old village home in France's Loire Valley and reestablish himself in a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Packing up his enormous, 35,000-volume personal library, choosing which books to keep, store, or cast out, Manguel found himself in deep reverie on the nature of relationships between books and readers, books and collectors, order and disorder, memory and reading. In this poignant and personal reevaluation of his life as a reader, the author illuminates the highly personal art of reading and affirms the vital role of public libraries.
Manguel's musings range widely, from delightful reflections on the idiosyncrasies of book lovers to deeper analyses of historic and catastrophic book events, including the burning of ancient Alexandria's library and contemporary library lootings at the hands of ISIS. With insight and passion, the author underscores the universal centrality of books and their unique importance to a democratic, civilized, and engaged society.
The definitive collection of literary essays by The New Yorker's award-winning longtime book critic
Ever since the publication of his first essay collection, The Broken Estate, in 1999, James Wood has been widely regarded as a leading literary critic of the English-speaking world. His essays on canonical writers (Gustav Flaubert, Herman Melville), recent legends (Don DeLillo, Marilynne Robinson) and significant contemporaries (Zadie Smith, Elena Ferrante) have established a standard for informed and incisive appreciation, composed in a distinctive literary style all their own.
Together, Wood's essays, and his bestselling How Fiction Works, share an abiding preoccupation with how fiction tells its own truths, and with the vocation of the writer in a world haunted by the absence of God. In Serious Noticing, Wood collects his best essays from two decades of his career, supplementing earlier work with autobiographical reflections from his book The Nearest Thing to Life and recent essays from The New Yorker on young writers of extraordinary promise. The result is an essential guide to literature in the new millennium.
One of our most beloved writers reassess the electrifying works of literature that have shaped her life
I sometimes think I was born reading . . . I can't remember the time when I didn't have a book in my hands, my head lost to the world around me.
Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-reader is Vivian Gornick's celebration of passionate reading, of returning again and again to the books that have shaped her at crucial points in her life. In nine essays that traverse literary criticism, memoir, and biography, one of our most celebrated critics writes about the importance of reading--and re-reading--as life progresses. Gornick finds herself in contradictory characters within D. H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers, assesses womanhood in Colette's The Vagabond and The Shackle, and considers the veracity of memory in Marguerite Duras's The Lover. She revisits Great War novels by J. L. Carr and Pat Barker, uncovers the psychological complexity of Elizabeth Bowen's prose, and soaks in Natalia Ginzburg, "a writer whose work has often made me love life more." After adopting two cats, whose erratic behavior she finds vexing, she discovers Doris Lessing's Particularly Cats.
Guided by Gornick's trademark verve and insight, Unfinished Business is a masterful appreciation of literature's power to illuminate our lives from a peerless writer and thinker who "still read[s] to feel the power of Life with a capital L."