By J. Peder Zane
Italo Calvino defined it is as a work that “has never finished saying what it has to say.” Ezra Pound said it possesses “a certain eternal and irrepressible freshness." And the 19th century French literary critic Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve declared that “[it] has discovered some moral and not equivocal truth, or revealed some eternal passion in that heart where all seemed known and discovered.”
At first glance, these definitions of classic/great books seem on the mark. Under their umbrella of excellence we can fit undisputed works of genius from “The Iliad” and “The Divine Comedy” to “Pride & Prejudice,” “Anna Karenina” and “Invisible Man.”
Unfortunately, they rest on a fallacy – that any and every book that exhibits these qualities will be considered a classic. Read more ...
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Getting to know Lee Smith was one of the great pleasures of my years as the book review editor for the News & Observer of Raleigh. Talented, tireless and gracious, she was one reason our state’s collection of writers is a community.
She serves others writers as much as she does the word – and the spirit.
So it is not surprising that her first work of nonfiction, Dimestore, has much to say about the native community that helped shape her, the Appalachian town of Grundy, Virginia.
Sad to hear that Jim Harrison died Saturday. As Margalit Fox writes in the New York Times, his “lust for life — and sometimes just plain lust — roared into print in a vast, celebrated body of fiction, poetry and essays that with ardent abandon explored the natural world, the life of the mind and the pleasures of the flesh.”
Rick Moody is earning reviews so warm they’re glowing for his sixth novel, Hotels of North America - a darkly comic portrait of a man whose life - including his motivational speaking career, the dissolution of his marriage, the separation from his beloved daughter, and his devotion to an amour known only as "K." – is revealed through his online reviews.
Here are three:
Fairy tale writers are the worst closers in the biz. Oh sure, they can spin a good yarn, full of magic, romance and now I can’t sleep at night terror. But when the time comes to wrap it all up, the best most can come up with is “and they lived happily ever after.”
They have been clever enough to sell this weakness as a virtue, calling it tradition and pretending they have no choice. But believe me, they catch it hard at literary festivals.
“I don’t want to write about human behavior,” John Banville told The Paris Review. “If I can catch the play of light on a wall, and catch it just so, that is enough for me.”
For Banville sentences, images and words have become the alpha and the omega. “Linguistic beauty,” he continued, can be pursued “as an end in itself.”
At a time when the phrase “literary event” is a quaint anachronism (see Vargas Llosa’s Notes on the Death of Culture), a new novel from Jonathan Franzen may be as close as book lovers can come these days to tweezing a piece of the nation’s attention.