In this roundup: Patti Smith, the crap they write on book jackets, and more.
Complex literary works demand an effort from the reader that is becoming harder to justify, given the sink-or-swim pressures to make profitable products for a global marketplace. Who can blame writers for spending more time ornamenting their Facebook page than revising their manuscript? — Joanna Scott
Do we need difficult literature? If so, why? If we do need it for good reason, then what are its effects? At a time when evidence suggests a decline in reading as it has been traditionally understood, these are popular questions on the literary Internet. Joanna Scott’s piece for The Nation, “ The Virtues of Difficult Fiction ” has been making the rounds, with incoming links but sadly not too much conversation. There is one interesting interpretation of “difficult” literature in terms of “violence” in a thread about the piece on Reddit.
There's the need to become part of the writing "community", which compels every writer who craves self respect and success to attend community events, help to organize them, buzz over them, and—despite blitzed nerves and staggering bowels—present and perform at them. We get through it. We bully ourselves into it. We dose ourselves with beta blockers. We drink. We become our own worst enemies for a night of validation and participation. Lately, though, I've been asking why.
Another item from the big press that’s been bouncing around on the blogs for the last couple weeks is an essay in The Atlantic that bemoans the loss of the supposedly-lost and supposedly-real “good old days” when “ writing used to be a solitary profession .” Certainly, literary practice is attractive for an introvert, but then again literature is inherently social because it requires a speaker and an listener, a writer and a reader, and sometimes even a stage and an audience.
Even if you haven’t heard of “blurbspeak,” the term that David Foster Wallace coined for the “literally meaningless” phrases that often appear on the back of book jackets, surely you’ve read one once that seemed as though it might be bullshit. Lucas Thompson has an enjoyable deconstruction of the blurbspeak form and its authors , in the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Ordinarily, when a “lost” work is unearth and published from the estate of a famous writer, the blogs go wild with the news. Not so much this time with the publication of a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald that is both unlike his typical work and never-before-published. A small number of blogs have mentioned it, so it may be news to you that the story is available. It’s published in the most recent issue of the Strand magazine.
Patti Smith’s memoir, “Just Kids” will be adapted into a miniseries for Showtime. This raises some interesting questions: Who will play Patti Smith ? Will Janis Joplin or William Burroughs make appearances ? Will the miniseries be anything like the book ?