Familiars from 4 Corners Books

Familiars is an extraordinary series of classic texts reinterpreted by modern artists, from English publisher Four Corners Books. “Each book is different in style and format, according to the needs of the artwork and the text.” Very cool.

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New Novel Coming March 2023

Some exciting news: after a long silence, I have a new novel at last. All That Is Mine I Carry With Me will be published on March 7, 2023. I will have much more to say about the book as the pub date draws near, but for now I just wanted to share the news. Thank you all for sticking with me through this long process.

Update 8.18.22: If you just can’t wait, my publisher has some information and links to pre-order the book here.

The Myth of a Golden Age of Books

Amazing fact of the day: in 1931 there were just 500 or so real bookstores in America, and two-thirds of the country had no bookstores at all.

“In the entire country [in 1931], there were only some four thousand places where a book could be purchased, and most of these were gift shops and stationary stores that carried only a few popular novels.… In reality, there were but five hundred or so legitimate bookstores that warranted regular visits from publishers’ salesmen (and in 1931 they were all men). Of these five hundred, most were refined, old-fashioned ‘carriage trade’ stores catering to an elite clientele in the nation’s twelve largest cities.”

Furthermore, two-thirds of American counties — 66 percent! — had exactly zero bookstores. It was a relatively tiny business centered in the urban areas of the country. Did some great books come out back then? Of course! But they were aimed only at the tiny percentage of the country that was visible to publishers of the time: sophisticated urban elites. It wasn’t that people couldn’t read; by 1940, UNESCO estimated that 95 percent of adults in America were literate. No, it’s just that the vast majority of adults were not considered to be part of the cultural enterprise of book publishing. People read stuff (the paper, the Bible, comic books), just not what the publishers were putting out.

— Alexis Madrigal

Categories: Books · Publishing    Tags: ·

David Milch at work

By design, Milch wrote “Deadwood” under a gun-to-the-head deadline, regularly composing dialogue the day before a scene was to be shot. Milch is the only writer I have ever watched, at length, write. I sat in a dimly lit, air-conditioned trailer as Milch—surrounded by several silent acolytes, of varying degrees of experience and career accomplishment—sprawled on the floor in the middle of the room, staring at a large computer monitor a few feet away. An assistant at a keyboard took dictation as Milch, seemingly channeling voices from a remote dimension, put words into (and took words out of) the mouth of this or that character. The cursor on the screen advanced and retreated until the exchange sounded precisely right. The methodology evoked a séance, and it was necessary to remind oneself that the voices in fact issued from a certain precinct of the fellow on the floor’s brain.

“David Milch’s Third Act,” by Mark Singer

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Now on Apple TV+

Defending Jacon Apple TV+ online poster

Details here.

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“The point of change”

“Concentrate your narrative energy on the point of change. This is especially important for historical fiction. When your character is new to a place, or things alter around them, that’s the point to step back and fill in the details of their world. People don’t notice their everyday surroundings and daily routine, so when writers describe them it can sound as if they’re trying too hard to instruct the reader.”

Hilary Mantel’s Rules for Writers

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Defending Jacob trailer

Coming April 24.

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Victor Hugo

Portrait of M. Victor Hugo (1879) by Léon Bonnat. Click for hi-def image. (Via)

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Art Is Hard

Art Is Hard hat

It certainly is. Buy it here.

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Moby Mobile

Moby Dick animated book cover

Animated book covers is simply too good an idea not to happen. (Artwork by Javier Jensen.)

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A character who yearns

“All works of fiction are built around a character who yearns, and if you’re in touch with what the character is yearning for, then every detail is filtered through that emotional center.”

Robert Olen Butler

Happy reading

Penguin Classics ad

This new ad campaign for Penguin Classics is lovely. (More here.)

Neil Gaiman: Make Good Art

When you start out on a career in the arts you have no idea what you are doing. This is great. People who know what they are doing know the rules, and know what is possible and impossible. You do not. And you should not. The rules on what is possible and impossible in the arts were made by people who had not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them. And you can.

Neil Gaiman, “Make Good Art” (read it here)

Gatsby Unchained

Gatsby movie tie-in

A paperback tie-in version for the 1949 movie featuring Alan Ladd. Not exactly how I pictured Gatsby, but there’s no accounting for taste.

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How Daniel Pink Writes

When I’m in the writing stages of a book, I keep a pretty rigid schedule. Each day I show up to my office (the garage behind my house) in the morning, around 8:30 a.m. And I give myself a word count — usually between 500 and 800 words. I don’t do anything else — no email, no phone calls, no Twitter — until I hit that word count. Sometimes I can do it in a few hours. Other times, it’s excruciating and I’m struggling well into the afternoon. For me, it’s the only process that works. If I write 600 words a day, 6 or 7 days a week, the pages begin to pile up.

Dan Pink (via)

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“All good things must begin”

Wonderful journals from the science-fiction author Octavia Butler. More here.


I will find the way to do this So be it! See to it!

We internalize all the negative things our culture feeds us about ourselves. We internalize all the negative things our parents (also self-hating) feed us about ourselves. We accept limits that do not exist — or would not if we were not so well prepared to accept them.

Strive Always — In All Ways At All Times — Always For Intensity. Cold or Hot, Hard or Soft, Gut-Wrenching or Deeply Stilling Utter Intensity.

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John le Carré, 1965

33-year-old John le Carré appears on the “Merv Griffin Show,” October 14, 1965.

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Gay Talese on Writer’s Block

This is exactly how I feel.

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The Silence

Q: Looking back, how do you recall your 50-plus years as a writer?

Roth: Exhilaration and groaning. Frustration and freedom. Inspiration and uncertainty. Abundance and emptiness. Blazing forth and muddling through. The day-by-day repertoire of oscillating dualities that any talent withstands — and tremendous solitude, too. And the silence: 50 years in a room silent as the bottom of a pool, eking out, when all went well, my minimum daily allowance of usable prose.

Philip Roth

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“Limited” by Carl Sandburg

I am riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains of the nation.
Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.
(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall pass to ashes.)
I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he answers: “Omaha.”

From Chicago Poems (1916)

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