It's intriguing that even in these times, when literary fiction is reportedly on life support, Jonathan Franzen can be a cover story for Time!
The trend in fiction over the past decade has been toward specialization: the closeup, the miniature, the microcosm. After the literary megafauna of the 1990s — like Infinite Jest by the late David Foster Wallace, who was a close friend of Franzen's — the novels of the aughts embraced quirkiness and uniqueness. Franzen skipped that trend. He remains a devotee of the wide shot, the all-embracing, way-we-live-now novel.
SPIEGEL publishes a great interview with Gunter Grass. Q: Do you fear the end of your life? Grass: No. I've realized that, on the one hand, one is ready for it. I also realize that I've retained a certain amount of curiosity. What will happen to my grandchildren? What will the weekend football results look like? Of course, there are also some banalities I still want to experience. Jacob Grimm wrote a wonderful piece on aging, and I also found the following sentence in another one of his works: "The last harvest is on the stalk." It touched me, and of course it immediately prompted me to reflect on my own age. In doing so, I didn't discover any predominant fear of death.
Norman Spinrad, well-known writer, literary critic, and expert on publishing, has an interesting post at his blog NORMAN SPINRAD AT LARGE.
Hey, I learned the business of publishing from the gutter up as a 24 year old anonymous wage slave in the Scott Meredith Literary Agency. I’ve been president of two writers’ organizations. I’ve written a whole book on the publishing industry. I’ve been called a Communist, a Fascist, an anarchist, a punk, a bastard, an asshole, and a prick. But one thing I’ve never been called is naive.
Now I have to do it to myself.
Boy was I naive about the great literary publishing house Alfred A. Knopf!
Boy was I naive about its maven, Sonny Mehta!
This is not only going to be a sad story, it’s quite embarrassing to have to tell it.
"It’s time for publishers to start being gatekeepers again, to step away from the mediocre, the easy successes, the frozen-pizza school of writing — easy to sell, easy to consume, of no nutritional value whatsoeve."
In the Observer,William Skidelsky interviews Lydia Davis, who is famous for writing stories that are sometimes one-sentence long.
"I started writing the one-sentence stories when I was translating Swann's Way. There were two reasons. I had almost no time to do my own writing, but didn't want to stop. And it was a reaction to Proust's very long sentences. The sheer length of a thought of his didn't make me recoil exactly – I loved working on it – but it made me want to see how short a piece of fiction could be that would still have a point to it, and not just be a throwaway joke."