Thursday, February 23, 2012

If you want it you got it

Today's quote, from a Chicago Tribune profile of a McSweeney's writer:
As for Levin, after initially worrying about the book's length, he decided at page 700 that the book would be as long as it needed to be. "If I have arrived at a stance on literature, I guess, it's this: I want books to be huge. Not page counts — I want giant stories that end big," he says. "Because as I get older, I'm getting bored, with domestic fiction, especially. And I want to read writers who are bold, who go for it all. I want all the significance, everything."
McSweeney's editor Eli Horowitz agreed: "The reason most books are not as big as 'The Instructions' is not necessarily because books are not supposed to be as big as 'The Instructions.' It's because publishers are afraid of them and authors get worried people won't read them. To get past that and write to the length you truly believe you should write to requires a mixture of courage and obliviousness that Adam has. He's brave, and when it works well, it's thrilling."
Reading quotes like that are the good part of the internet. Reading quotes like this one (from a Poets and Writers interview) are the bad:
Stein: Novels are beginning to feel that way too. I mean, really—it's like the novel is the new short story.
RUTMAN: The short story is the new poem...
STEIN: Yeah, the short story is the new poem, novels are the new short story.... It's hard out there.
RUTMAN: If you're talking to a certain audience, say an MFA audience, you hear the sentiment of, "Ugh, if only I could get past the short story collection and get on to the novel, easy street can't be far behind."
STEIN: There is no easy street.
RUTMAN: Exactly. It doesn't exist. But there is this unhelpful assumption that you just need to get to a novel, at which point your publishing fortunes will brighten.
STEINBERG: There are probably only a hundred people in the United States who make a living off novel writing.
STEIN: Did you make that number up?
STEINBERG: Yeah, I just made it up.
STEIN: I think that's a really great point and that number sounds about right to me.
100 out of 300 million people. Might just as well start buying lottery tickets.

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