At a loss for words?

This blog seems to have lived out its useful life, at least for now. But here it shall remain, because you never know when I may want to reference or resurrect it.

A note on formatting: I moved this blog over to WordPress from its former home on Typepad, and not all the formatting seems to have moved with it.  It pains me, but I’m not sure I’m going to go and reformat all 384 posts.  Forgive me.

But I did correct the improper use of an apostrophe in the possessive “its” from February 4, 2008, because there are some things you can live with, and some things you can’t.

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More long-form reading

A few posts back I mentioned as the best site I wish I’d never found (because I already spend too much of my day reading stuff.  Not that I wouldn’t like to spend my entire working day reading—if there’s a career that consists of spending your day reading broadly and then talking about what you’ve read, can someone point me towards it?—but one does need to do something to keep the electric bill paid). Now comes, which similarly aggregates long-form stories.

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Mags for iPad

and then there’s the New Yorker app…

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New name, new narrative nonfiction home

So here we are.  Narrative Snack is the new home of the Blog Formerly Known as Welcome to the Hinterlands.  All the old content is here, and I’ll be updating lists and links in the coming weeks.  Feel free to pull up a chair and makes yourselves comfy.

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Don’t judge a book by its chick-lit cover

The UK’s Lionel Shriver weighs in on the Franzen fracas–aka “Franzenfreude” (need to get up to speed?  Ruth Franklin has an excellent roundup in The New Republic) :

A female novelist would never enjoy a Franzen-scale frenzy of adulation in America, which maintains two distinct tiers in fiction. The heavy hitters – cultural icons who often produce great doorstop novels that no one ever argues are under-edited – are exclusively male. Rising literati like Rick Moody and Jonathan Franzen efficiently assume the spots left unoccupied by John Updike and Norman Mailer, like a rigged game of musical chairs. Then there’s everybody else – including a raft
of female writers who keep the publishing industry afloat by selling to its primary consumers: women.

From there, however, Shriver moves on to the subject of book covers, and in particular takes issue with the apparently compulsive need of her publishers to dress her books in “chick lit” covers.  As the title of her Guardian piece puts it, ” I write a nasty book. And they want a girly cover on it.” Shriver writes:

With merciful exceptions, my publishers constantly send prospective covers for my books that play to what “women readers” supposedly want. Take the American reissue of my fourth novel Game Control – a wicked, nasty novel about a plot to kill two billion people overnight. The main character is a man, the focal subject demography. Yet what cover do I first get sent? A winsome young lass in a floppy hat, gazing soulfully to the horizon in a windblown field – soft focus, in pastels.

There are complicated issues at work here–among other things, the tension between art and marketing.  Is a book cover’s job to sell the book or is its job to tell you about the book?  Of course, the ideal answer is “both,” but practically speaking, some books are hard to sum up in a cover.  On the other hand, it is difficult to see how a novel about a plot to kill 2 billion people overnight really cries out for floppy hats and soulful gazing. And more to the point, do those kinds of covers really sell books?  Not to this reader–but then, my epitaph could read, “Never a member of the target demographic.”

And finally, by the way, I like Shriver’s little throwaway line in the first ‘graph: “…that no
one ever argues are under-edited.”

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Best site I wish I’d never found

Oh why oh why did I have to discover  I will never get any work done!  I haven’t looked into the Instapaper feature on the site, but here’s the gist of what longform offers: a central clearinghouse of long-form narrative past and present.    Like “The Radioactive Boy Scout,” a story I loved but would never have remembered where I read it (Harper’s, 1998).

I found longform by way of a Poynter’s piece, “How Technology Is Renewing Attention to Long-form Journalism.


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And speaking of E,P,L

I'm sure it's not any easier these days being Elizabeth Gilbert's ex-husband, but to make matters possibly more aggravating, his own book has hit a snag.  In a Page Six item from July, he said that he and publisher Hyperion "parted ways" over his book and that he is now shopping it elsewhere.

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