Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘controversies’

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Sticks and Stones: On Harsh Reviews

Does anyone actually believe that words can never hurt you? Come on, people—we’re writers. If there’s anything we believe in, it’s that words have power: to inspire, to move, and—yes, I’m afraid, to wound. “Mean” reviews (and their counterpart, “too nice” reviews) have been a topic of much discussion for the past few months, but things reached a frenzy this past week when the New York Times published a scathing double-review of Alix Ohlin’s new novel and collection, Inside and Signs and Wonders. Writers everywhere jumped up to defend Ohlin, defend Giraldi, and question whether harsh reviews have a place […]


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"You can’t take an adult seriously when he’s debating you over why Twilight vampires are O.K. with sunlight."

What to make of Joel Stein? He’s a humor writer who (sometimes) makes serious points, and as a result, his readers sometimes miss the argument beneath the humor, or miss the humor on top of the argument. His latest essay, “Adults Should Read Adult Books,” in the New York Times, is causing quite a kerfuffle: I have no idea what “The Hunger Games” is like. Maybe there are complicated shades of good and evil in each character. Maybe there are Pynchonesque turns of phrase. Maybe it delves into issues of identity, self-justification and anomie that would make David Foster Wallace […]


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Robots Writing Novels?

So a monkey typing into infinity will eventually produce Shakespeare—or so the theory goes. Maybe robots would be faster? The New York Times recently discussed the phenomenon of robots writing books. After an encounter with a robo-writer called Lambert M. Surhone—literally a computer churning out titles like “Saltine Cracker” and “Pagan Kennedy” from pasted-together online text—author Pagan Kennedy (yes) was fascinated and preplexed: Could robots ever be trusted to write original novels, histories, scientific papers and sonnets? For years, artificial-intelligence experts have insisted that machines can succeed as authors. But would we humans ever want to read the robot-books? Mechanized […]


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Fahrenheit 451–2011 edition?

Is there anything more disrespectful to a book–and its authors and would-be readers–than burning? Book burnings are inevitably associated with censorship and repressive ideology, from the Third Reich to the more recent Quran-burning controversy. Even without those connotations, burning any book–for any reason–sends a shiver down my spine. But can book-burning sometimes be justified? On Cracked, S. Peter Davis writes about book-burnings that are occurring now, all over many countries–and why: For the past year or so, part of my job has been to walk through library warehouses and destroy tens of thousands of often old and irreplaceable books. […] […]


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Is there space for "GAY" in "YA"?

What if an agent agreed to represent your book–IF you changed the main character from gay to straight? That’s what happened to writers Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown and their YA novel, Stranger, according to a post they wrote in Publisher’s Weekly: Our novel, Stranger, has five viewpoint characters; one, Yuki Nakamura, is gay and has a boyfriend. Yuki’s romance, like the heterosexual ones in the novel, involves nothing more explicit than kissing. An agent from a major agency, one which represents a bestselling YA novel in the same genre as ours, called us. The agent offered to sign […]


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What Makes Gatsby Great

When I heard The Great Gatsby had been rewritten for intermediate readers, I did what many lovers of the novel probably did—checked the online version to see how my favorite passage had been changed, shook my fist, and then re-read the original, penciling all kinds of ecstatic remarks into the margins. In case you missed Celeste’s post, Macmillan has released a simplified version of the novel as “retold by Margaret Tarner.” Essentially, it relates the events of the Gatsby story without all the big words and elaboration. And so my favorite passage, two beautiful paragraphs of imagery and movement and […]


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"She is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing, too."

You have probably heard by now that V. S. Naipaul issued a broad-handed diss to women writers, claiming no female writer could be his equal: He felt that women writers were “quite different”. He said: “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me.” The author, who was born in Trinidad, said this was because of women’s “sentimentality, the narrow view of the world”. “And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that […]


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How to save a library? With postcards–and some attitude.

We’re delighted to present the following post by Nicole Aber, our FWR editorial intern. Enjoy! Last summer, I worked a few blocks away from the regal main branch of the New York Public Library near Bryant Park. During the interlude between the end of the work day and the start of a class I was taking, I’d sometimes take refuge in the humbling building, its architectural beauty and breathtaking murals never ceasing to amaze me. So when I came across the story of a young girl aiming to keep the city’s libraries open by writing comical postcards to New York […]


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How far can book promotions go?

My friends who are literary agents have told me about the many ways authors try to catch their attention: packages of cookies sent with their manuscripts; queries tucked into oven mitts shaped like sunflowers (of all things). But this might be the ultimate guerrilla book promotion: faking a kidnapping to promote your book. Yes. Mark Davis, a thriller writer, did just that. Reports the News Advance of Lynchburg, Virginia: His main character, Perno Morris, is a failed novelist who has grown weary (and, perhaps, been pushed over the edge of sanity) by a discouraging series of rejections by publishers. So […]




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