Literature loves a mean girl, an archenemy, or just an undermining frenemy. Let’s face it: this archetype is often (though not always) realized as a charming blonde who’s either a snob guarding her place against interlopers or a determined social climber. For every spunky heroine, she’s the prissy antagonist who scorns our protagonist’s rough ways, while her nimble feet fight for their place on the rungs of a given novel’s social ladder. She represents the apex of the idea that men can fight each other out in the open, but women are forced to be underhanded in their jockeying for alpha status. Her machinations make plots get thicker and tension ratchet up. Here’s a selection of literature’s most delightfully nasty mean girls. We love to hate …Read More
How Margaret Atwood and Zadie Smith Use Technology: An Excerpt From ‘Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors’
Need a hit of inspiration? In Sarah Stodola‘s fascinating new book Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors, we see what drives genius. Whether it’s “autodidacts,” “nine-to-fivers,” or “slow and steady,” among others, Stodola takes an intimate and well-researched look inside the habits and traditions of 18 of your favorite writers (including David Foster Wallace, Virginia Woolf, Joan Didion, Toni Morrison, and George Orwell), habits that have led to the production of some of our greatest canonical works. Process goes on shelves (and online) January 20th.
Read an exclusive preview, which looks at Margaret Atwood and Zadie Smith’s very different approaches to technology and the Internet’s role their writing, below.
In The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy, open-mouthed, says “I’ve never heard of a beautiful witch before,” Glinda famously quips that only bad witches are ugly. But ’tis not so — or at least, there are plenty of very bad witches who are the opposite of ugly: beautiful, sexy, charming, devastatingly intelligent, or all of the above. So, in honor of J.K. Rowling’s outrage that we all love Draco so much, here’s 50 villains that we wouldn’t kick out of …Read More
I’m obsessed with literary T-shirts because they’re my version of band T-shirts — exactly the kind of geeky, nerdy, not-quite-hipster item that fits my personality. I won’t mention how many I own. And a Jane Eyre T-shirt was my most treasured MFA graduation present. So, in the spirit of the season, I thought I’d honor night seven of Hanukkah and the penultimate eve before Christmas Eve by sharing a few perfect literary T-shirts to purchase for yourself or a loved one before the year ends.
Heartbroken? Left alone? Depressed? And right before the holidays? Never fear, because this is no end-of-year list — it’s a list to cure that broken heart of yours. Now, there are as many ways to mend a broken heart as there are to break one, but hopefully this list will contain something for everyone, whether you prefer to muffle pain with laughter, or might take some hope in a happy ending, or just need to wallow. After all, as James Baldwin said, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” So here you go, gang: 50 cures for love, all $25 or less.
There’s been a lot of talk about genre in the air recently (well, really, when isn’t there?) — what it means, whether it’s changed, whether it’s even useful or important anymore. But no matter what is said, there’s still that lingering stigma that keeps worthy works of genre (for clarity, we’re mostly talking fantasy and science fiction, with a little historical fiction, mystery and crime thrown in for good measure) from ascending to full classic status: being taught in high schools, appearing on all-time best-book lists, etc. Some genre novels have already crossed the border into pure classic territory — Brave New World, Slaughterhouse-Five and 1984 are all genre and established classics by any measuring stick, The Lord of the Rings is so ubiquitous and grand that it’s forced itself into the canon, and let’s not forget that Wuthering Heights is a ghost story, and so, of course, is Beloved. To add to that list, here are 25 genre novels that should be considered classics. Add even more, if that’s your desire, in the comments.
Margaret Atwood can do anything. The legendary Canadian writer has left her mark in a plurality of forms and genres. Best known for her brilliant novels, she can write horrifying, prophetic speculative fiction (The Handmaid’s Tale), show us the complicated truth about female friendships (Alias Grace), and even reflect humanity’s trajectory right back at us (the Oryx and Crake trilogy).
For a reader, there’s something magical about picking up a first novel — that promise of discovery, the possibility of finding a new writer whose work you can love for years to come, the likelihood of semi-autobiography for you to mull over. The debut is even more important for the writer — after all, you only get one first impression. Luckily, there are a lot of fantastic first impressions to be had. Click through for some of the greatest first novels written since 1950 — some that sparked great careers, some that are still the writers’ best work, and some that remain free-standing. …Read More
Now that September is here and school is back in session, a writer’s thoughts turn to the eternal question: Is an MFA worth it? Ever since the publication of the Chad Harbach-edited anthology MFA vs. NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction earlier in the year, the perennial neurosis about whether or not an advanced degree in writing is worth it has become a progressively louder conversation. It’s one that we should be having, considering the explosion of the MFA in the past 40 years: from a mere 79 programs in 1979 to 854 today, according to Harbach. The MFA may even be having its moment — after all, the last shot of Girls Season 3 had Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath joyfully looking at her acceptance to Iowa. We checked in with some of our favorite writers from then and now to see what they think of the rise of the …Read More