Category Archives: Myla Goldberg

Links: Another Day

Rohan Maitzen has a lovely stemwinder in Open Letters Monthly about her experience reading Gone With the Wind for the thirty-second time. Her conclusion is blunt, and she’s not alone in coming to it: “[I]t rejects precisely the qualities I had always celebrated in its heroine, while embracing her most loathsome values. Punishing Scarlett for rebelling against her identity as a ‘lady,’ it endorses racism and romanticizes slavery. For all its undeniable narrative power, its passion, drama, and pathos, it is, morally, an appalling book.” But she takes a thoughtful and entertaining path to get to that point.

Sue Miller on her new novel, The Lake Shore Limited, makes a comment that may be relevant to the discussion about sentiment here a few days back: “I teetered between two opposing modes of writing: the mode that wanted to make the story emotionally compelling, to make you cry, and the other mode, which was to leave the story open, in some sense, and to make it ask more than it resolved for you.”

If publishers are having a hard time figuring out how to make money off e-books, they have a kindred spirit in Johannes Gutenberg, who died bankrupt.

Coming soon: A book-length appreciation of John Carpenter‘s cult classic They Live by Jonathan Lethem.

Myla Goldberg: “Certain issues stick with authors whether or not they want them to. Memory might be mine.”

Remembering Thomas Wolfe, born 110 years ago today.

Scenes from the first international conference of the John Updike Society, where the author’s childhood friends recalled his disinterest in tying his shoes and odd use of a basketball.

Paying tribute to Mark Twain on a Swiss trail.

Theodore Dreiser‘s “Library of American Realism.”

Ishmael Reed
on why colleges shouldn’t teach The Wire.

“Here I am, a guy who has written seven novels about life in my 20th and 21st century (and has had five agents sell none of them), and I find less than seven contemporary novels worth reading about my time on earth.” Can’t imagine why…

Links: New Deal

Guest editor Claire Messud dedicates the new issue of Guernica to women writers, including Holly Goddard Jones, Porochista Khakpour, and Elliott Holt. In her introductory essay, Messud writes: “Here’s the deal: men, without thinking, will almost without fail select men. And women, without thinking, will too often select men…. Our cultural prejudices are so deeply engrained that we aren’t even aware of them: arguably, it’s not that we think men are better, it’s that we don’t think of women at all.”

Aleksandar Hemon (also in Guernica): “I think the short story has been revived by these so-called immigrant writers; they do not know what the common lore is so they don’t care about it.”

John Updike never reviewed T.C. Boyle‘s books, and don’t think Boyle didn’t notice. But that that doesn’t mean Updike did him no favors.

This Side of Paradise will be a musical.

So will American Psycho.

Daniel Green has assembled an impressive list of major author interviews (i.e., non newspaper-phoners) that are available online. HTMLGiant wants suggestions for worthy additions to it. (I have one!)

Myla Goldberg: “Writing—it’s sort of the opposite of blogging and tweeting because I’m trying to conceal. I don’t want you to see me.”

“More Streptococci!”

Matthew Yglesias and Robert Farley have recently pondered the question of why the devastating Spanish flu of 1918 hasn’t been covered much by American writers. Neither of the posts (or their comment threads) mention the first novel that came to mind: Myla Goldberg‘s 2004 novel, Wickett’s Remedy, an interesting (if not entirely successful) attempt to tell a personal story about the epidemic with a few narrative tricks thrown in. But that doesn’t settle the question of why there was so little writing about the epidemic around the time it happened.

I don’t have an answer to that. But, looking for a little guidance, I stumbled over an interesting passage in The Gun and the Pen, a 2008 book by Keith Gandal about Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner‘s responses to war in their writing. Gandal locates a passage in, of all places, Henry Miller‘s Tropic of Cancer that, while not exactly thorough, does invokes the epidemic to bolster his antiwar critique:

Forward! Time presses…Forward! Forward without pity, without compassion, without love, without forgiveness. Ask no quarter and give none! More battleships, more poison gas, more high explosives! More gonococci! More streptococci! More bombing machines! More and more of it—until the whole fucking works is blown to smithereens, and the earth with it!

Gandal explains: “‘More streptococci!’ is probably Miller’s attempt to reference the influenza epidemic of 1918 that was spread by the Great War and killed 50 million to 100 million people worldwide and 300,000 to 500,000 Americans—at least two and a half times the 122,000 U.S. soldiers that died in the war, and around half of those combat deaths are also attributable to influenza.”

Weiland on State by State

Matt Weiland talks up the new collection he edited with Sean Wilsey, State by State, with the Rake, in the process pointing out what’s both good and bad about the book:

We wanted to make a book as cacophonous and messy and interesting as the nation itself, and that meant allowing writers to do their own thing and go off their own way. It’s kind of the way it feels driving across the country – wind in your hair, and windows rolled down, and everything – and you just bump into different landmarks and different topography and different sorts of people.

So we wanted different sorts of writers, too. Not just novelists, but also journalists and graphic novelists, and we have a musician, and a filmmaker, and of course a cook. We also wanted it to vary in terms of the style of the pieces. There’s Jonathan Franzen’s brilliant piece about New York, for instance, which is in the form of dramatic dialogue. We had no idea he was going to do that. It was terrific. And the unlikeliest piece, I think, was Craig Taylor’s. He wrote about Delaware, and it’s an oral history, like Studs Terkel’s great books.

He’s spot-on about Taylor’s piece, and it may say something that the best piece in a book about America was written by a Brit. As I pointed out elsewhere, the better essays in State by State are the reported ones, and on that front the pieces by fiction writers tend to be letdowns (Myla Goldberg and Jhumpa Lahiri being, surprisingly, the worst offenders). But more than anything else the book is a bit of a mess—for every nicely turned piece by Ha Jin or Alison Bechdel there’s a clunker, none worse than Saïd Sayrafiezadeh‘s odd Ugly American piece, for which the state of South Dakota deserves an apology. (“‘Look at us,’ I shouted. ‘We’re trout fishing in South Dakota!’”)

The Goldberg Variation

I was asked recently what bookselling-industry tipsheet Shelf Awareness is. “It’s a daily roundup of bookstore closings around the country,” I said. These days anything that will help sell a book is worth trying, and though I suspect that pretty soon some ASCAP or BMI rep will arrive to suck all the fun out of this, I admire the efforts of the Booksmith in San Francisco to attach a mix-CD giveaway to a handful of its offerings. Among the selections are the Decemberists’ “Myla Goldberg,” Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” and so on. “”I was inspired by the song Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush,” Martha Petit, the staffer who assembled the disc, tells LitMinds. “Todd (also a Booksmith staffer) and I were discussing what a great song it is and I relayed the story of a friend who also loved the song but had no clue that it was a reference to Emile Bronte’s novel.” (via Book Patrol)