The Blog

Tim Johnston's IRISH GIRL

Sara Jaffe

Like music, stories have dynamics. There are the louder and the softer moments, the crescendos and the rests, and the author achieves these expressive elements through a careful mix of tone, language, and plot elements. It’s difficult, in literature, to pull off an abrupt dynamic shift—unlike, say, in rock music, where it can be enough for the Pixies to launch from a whispered verse to a chorus’s gut-rupturing yell. Much literature thrives, rather, on dynamic tension, on elevating “quiet,” mundane events, to an unexpected forte, and on the containing of the louder moments of human existence—murder, betrayal, loss, violence—within focused, poetically precise language.


Jeremy B. Jones

In college—my first extended time away from home—I found myself suddenly caught up in the phrase, “in the mountains.” When I’d try to tell people where I was from, I’d finally offer an explanation: back in the mountains. It was the preposition that struck me. I wasn’t from on a mountain. I didn’t exist upon them or around them, behind or in front. I lived in—inside—those mountains.

Moving the Furniture in his Brain: An Interview with Thomas Pletzinger and Ross Benjamin

Diana Thow

Thomas Pletzinger’s debut novel Funeral for a Dog (Norton, 2011), translated from the German by Ross Benjamin, is an expansive, lyrical double portrait of two writers: the journalist Daniel Mandelkern and the elusive children’s book author Dirk Svensson, whom Mandelkern travels to  interview at Svensson’s home on Lago di Lugano. To answer the novel’s initial questions—Who exactly is Daniel Mandelkern? Who exactly  is Dirk Svensson?— we cross three continents and navigate five languages; we spend time on a basketball court in New York City’s West Village, in a motorboat hovering over the deepest, quietest part of Lago di Lugano, and at a cockfight in Sao Paolo, where the winning bird is named William Wordsworth.

Very cool profile of Matthew Carter

Russell Valentino

Probably an odd thing to put in a blog post (though no odder than naming a blog 'Paper cuts'): This from a recent profile in The Economist about the creator of the fonts Georgia and Verdana: "Mr Carter doesn't own an iPad, Kindle, or other reading device, as he is waiting for them to mature. (He does own an iPhone.) He frets that, as things stand, reading devices and programs homogenise all the tangible aspects of a book, like size or shape, as well as font. They are also poor at hyphenation and justification: breaking words at lexically appropriate locations, and varying the spacing between letters and between words. This may sound recondite but it is a visual imprint of principles established over the entire written history of a language.

Bad Sex, LOLcat lit, and the hardliners on language change

Russell Valentino

This news: Rowan Somerville's novel The Shape of Her won the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award "for a scene in which a nipple is likened to the upturned 'nose of the loveliest nocturnal animal, sniffing in the night,'" Bloomberg reported. The author nabbed the U.K.'s "most dreaded literary prize" by besting a shortlist that included Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, Annabel Lyon's The Golden Mean, Neel Mukherjee's A Life Apart, Craig Raine's Heartbreak, Christos Tsiolkas's The Slap, Alastair Campbell's Maya, and Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross. "There is nothing more English than bad sex, so on behalf of the entire nation I would like to thank you," Somerville said in his acceptance speech.


Subscribe to The Blog