by Vicraj Gill
Feminist scholar Lynne Segal’s Out of Time: The Pleasures and Perils of Ageing is just out from Verso Books, and Guernica has an excerpt—“All the Selves We Have Been.” “Aging encompasses so much,” Segal writes, “and yet most people’s thoughts about it embrace so little.” The realities of physical life may change drastically as one ages, but, she says, “we always live with those passions of the past in the strange mutations of mental life in the present.” She looks to the work of Simone de Beauvoir for honest writing that acknowledges the reality of aging even as it makes clear the writer’s own ambivalence toward it.
Romesh Gunesekera, who debuted at 38 with the collection Monkfish Moon (1992), sits down with Deborah Treisman to talk about his short story “Roadkill” as part of The New Yorker’s “This Week in Fiction” series. Gunesekera’s belief that writing is “an act against the corrosiveness of time” makes for an interesting complement to Segal’s thesis.
At the LA Review of Books, Eric Obenauf of the independent press Two Dollar Radio points to Paul Harding’s 2010 Pulitzer win for Tinkers as a landmark moment in the history of literary awards—to which the newly-expanded 2013 National Book Award longlist, by focusing on high-profile and “brand” writers like Thomas Pynchon, George Saunders, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Rachel Kushner, has failed to live up. He argues that future judges of literary awards should be more diverse with their choices, branching out beyond those titles published and venerated by mainstream venues. Books like Tinkers and Grace Krilanovich’s The Orange Eats Creeps (2010), he maintains, prove that independent presses have as much to offer as corporate ones.
Daniel Menaker, publishing industry veteran and author of the upcoming memoir My Mistake, discusses the most “underappreciated” of the books he edited during his 15 years in the industry. And his attention to these underrated books is quite touching. Among the selections are Colum McCann’s Zoli (2006), which preceded the award winning Let the Great World Spin (2009), and Shannon Burke’s Safelight (2005).
Thirty-seven year-old Eimear McBride just published her first novel, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, this year. The book won Britain’s first Goldsmiths Prize—begun this year to honor “fiction at its most novel”—and made a huge splash upon its debut, for the dense style in which it portrays the life of its child narrator, a style described by McBride as “stream of pre-consciousness.” McBride finished the book at 27; it was rejected by every major house she submitted it to, and shelved for nine more years before seeing the light of publication. One of the form rejections McBride received, as she reveals in an interview with The New Statesman’s Toby Lichtig, featured a handwritten confession that the book was “some kind of masterpiece”—bringing to mind the staggering list of rejections David Markson received for Wittgenstein’s Mistress (1988), a book also hailed for its formal inventiveness by editors just as reluctant to acquire it. But it was the tiny press Galley Beggar, McBride maintains, that gave her “the bridge between nothing and success.”
Also at The New Statesman is Neel Mukherjee’s examination of the life of Penelope Fitzgerald, recently explored in a brand new biography from Hermione Lee—Penelope Fitzgerald: a Life. Fitzgerald published her debut, the biography Edward Burne-Jones, at 60. She’s best known for her last stretch of novels—from 1986’s Innocence to The Blue Flower (1995)—which Mukherjee praises, declaring, “There is nothing quite like them in English literature.” He adds: “There’s no getting away from it. Fitzgerald was a genius.”
“All Through the Night,” a poem by Bloomer Mary Jo Bang, appears in the latest issue of The New Yorker. The full text of the poem is only available to subscribers, but you don’t have to look far to find other works by Bang—her much lauded translation of Dante, Inferno, which Kat Laskowski wrote about here at Bloom, is also out now.