Travel writing is a glamorous but difficult genre. To a reader it’s an easy sell: you get to go to fantastic places and see unusual things without spending the money. But for a writer, getting your tone right can be tricky. The speaker’s narration of the exotic wonders of the place they’re visiting can quickly turn condescending and even racist. Only the most skilled writers can toe the line. Like, you know, Steinbeck. In this list, I’ve observed the following parameters: no recent blockbusters, as many of the world’s regions as one could possibly fit, and steering away from the older, 19th-century popular travel books unless there was something particularly remarkable about… Read More
This week, the literary world was abuzz with the news of the reconciliation of Salman Rushdie and John le Carré after fifteen years of enmity, though we have to admit, we’re a little disappointed. You just don’t get that many good literary feuds these days, what with all the excessive apologizing and proper behavior (or maybe it’s just that there’s not enough drinking), and Rushdie is one of the last living writers ready for a dust-up, even if it’s just with Facebook. Still, we know our mothers would tell us that it’s better to be friends than enemies, so after the jump, we present a short list of famous literary feuds that went sweet and ended in truces. Click through to get the warm and fuzzies, and let us know who we missed in the comments. … Read More
There’s no denying that V.S. Naipaul, who turns 80 today, is an excellent writer. The recipient of a Nobel Prize in Literature (among various other prizes) and universally praised for his skill with the English language — even the hard-to-please author and critic Evelyn Waugh once remarked that Naipaul’s prose “put to shame his British contemporaries” — Naipaul is definitely one of the literary greats of our generation. Unfortunately, he can also be kind of a jerk. Not that he minds. “If a writer doesn’t generate hostility, he is dead,” the Indo-Trinidadian-British writer once declared. In that case, Naipaul (the “VS” is an apt abbreviation) is very much kicking.
Now don’t get us wrong: insults are one thing — and Naipaul, who called Henry James “the worst writer in the world” and alleged that Hemingway was “so busy being an American” that he “didn’t know where he was” was certainly full of them — but then there are the comments that go beyond insulting and wind up being seriously offensive to wide groups of people. After the jump, we’ve collected a few of the most shocking, controversial, and flat-out worst things the author has ever said — click through if you dare. … Read More
This week saw the release of Farther Away, Jonathan Franzen’s newest collection of essays and speeches, covering the last five years of his non-fiction output. Well, in those last five years, he has become increasingly grumpy, griping about things like Twitter and ebooks, and building a reputation as an unrepentantly prickly author with a constant bone to pick. To celebrate the release of another book filled with Franzen’s complaints, we’ve put together a list of the ten grumpiest, crankiest and most cantankerous authors still living today. Click through to read about the exploits of our favorite literary curmudgeons, and let us know — as un-crankily as you can, please — if we’ve missed anyone in the comments. … Read More
Patrick Kingsley recently wrote in The Guardian about “poisonous literary feuds” and the peacemakers who could broker a truce. We ran a post on the subject last year, but thought we would do an international list of troublemakers this time around. We’d also like to honor the man who racked up the most hours feuding with his literary colleagues: Norman Mailer. Writers today generally aren’t as venomous toward each other (although maybe Colson Whitehead would disagree after his salivary encounter with Richard Ford). We have to agree with Mailer’s proclamation on The Dick Cavett Show: “I’m going to be the champ until one of you knocks me off.” … Read More
We may never experience the world with the same madcap narrative imagination as our favorite writers, but we can at least get a taste of their edible inspirations through the dishes and recipes they most enjoyed. With food on everyone’s mind this week (oh, and giving thanks too), here’s a guide to recreating the cooking habits of literature’s most culinary-inclined creatives. … Read More
Labor Day may have marked the unofficial end of summer, but last week’s long weekend also marked the beginning of the publishing world’s fall book rush. With dozens of new titles hitting shelves in the months leading up to December’s holiday shopping spree, this is the season to celebrate books across all categories. Our highlights for fall’s upcoming releases are spread out across a variety of genres, assuring ample reading options for every literary preference. … Read More