At once the funniest and most depressingly accurate take on book/author promo:
“You Tube. Of course! ‘Cause you know, that’s the dream, right? Twenty years ago when I wanted to become a writer, a big part of the dream was being able to put little videos on the Internet. That’s it. That’s why we do this.”
As I believe I have freely admitted before in these pages (pages? entries? updates?), as a rule when I dip into contemporary fiction, it’s fiction for the junior set. I’m a fan of the Harry Potter series. And I recently devoured the latest Eoin Colfer/Artemis Fowl while being ferried down the New Jersey Turnpike. Perhaps I shouldn’t admit this. Will they come and take away my English degrees if I acknowledge that a great deal of contemporary adult lit-fic leaves me cold?
Well this weekend in the NYT book review was a (positive, not critical) essay about adult fans of YA/middle reader books (though the essay lumped the books all under YA). In two quotes it neatly summed up what I like about Books for Younger Readers and don’t like about a lot of contemporary adult literature.
The first, from historian and author Amanda Foreman: “There’s a freshness there; it’s engaging. Y.A. authors aren’t writing about middle-aged anomie or disappointed people.”
The other from the book critic Lev Grossman: “A lot of contemporary adult literature is characterized by a real
distrust of plot. I think young adult fiction is one of
the few areas of literature right now where storytelling really
As I regularly point out to people when explaining why I rarely read any contemporary literary fiction, if I wanted to be depressed, I could just read the news.
Kudos go to New Yorker writer Daniel Medelsohn for not mentioning the Laura Albert/JT Leroy scandal in the context of his piece on memoir. As declared in previous Hinterlands post (subset of the ongoing “Memoir Controversy” thread):
However, in parting, The Hinterlands would like officially to state
that it never, ever, ever again wants to see an article on memoir bring
up JT Leroy. The books by “JT Leroy” (that is to say, Laura Albert)
were NOVELS written by a middle-aged woman pretending to be a young
man. OK? Everyone got that?
Let's call it memoir week. Next up, a discussion of Daniel Medelsohn's New Yorker "Books" piece on memoir.
But first, this arrived yesterday in my in-box, courtesy the OED online's word-of-the-day.
memoir, n. DRAFT REVISION Sept. 2009
Brit. /mmw/, U.S. /mmwr/, /mmwr/ Forms: 16- memoir, 16- memoire, 17 memoi'r, 17 memoyre, 17 mesmoire; Sc. pre-17 memoer, pre-17 memoir, pre-17 memoire, pre-17 memor, pre-17 memour, pre-17 memoyr. [< Middle French memoire (masculine) written account, description (from c1190 in Old French), document containing the facts in a case which is to be judged (1356), document containing instructions on a certain matter (1477) < memoire (feminine) MEMORY n. The main sense developments in English reflect those in French.
The change of gender in French is commonly accounted for by the supposition that the word in this use is elliptical for écrit pour mémoire; however, the gender of Middle French memoire fluctuated in all senses until the 16th cent., probably influenced by masculine nouns in -oir (see -ORY suffix1). Spanish memoria, Portuguese memória, and Italian memoria are feminine in all senses.
In the early modern period in English there is considerable overlap in forms between MEMOIR n. and the forms s.v. MEMORY n.; it is arguable that sense 1a may represent at least in part a native development from existing senses of MEMORY n. The spelling memoir prevalent in English since the 18th cent. perhaps results from awareness of the gender of the French noun, although the regular spelling of both masculine and feminine mémoire in French has long been with final -e
With yet another round of winter shutting us indoors, I rose to the challenge of blanching almonds. Someone, please, send spring.