Dactyl Foundation Award

For a number of decades, publishing has been dominated by commercial fiction, and less popular and hence less profitable literary fiction has little chance of being noticed by reviewers or placed on bookstore shelves.  New books are given about three months in front of judges and audiences. Those that don’t make it immediately are tossed […]

CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, by George Saunders

George Saunders, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, Random House paperback edition, 2016, 198 pp. Originally published in 1996. Two Instances of Prevarication On a Writer’s Acknowledgements Page “I often marvel at the persona engendered by the influence of the form. The writer presents himself as one surrounded, cushioned, buoyed up by wonderful friends. He is, he […]

Nutshell, by Ian McEwan

Freud’s repressed realm of bitter little embryos, spying from their natural nooks, upon the love life of their parents. Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory There’s the epigraph to my article, and maybe the spark that later ignited in Ian McEwan’s brain; here’s the epigraph (from Hamlet) to Nutshell: “Oh, God, I could be bounded in a […]

Enduring Love, by Ian McEwan

THE BRAVURA BEGINNING The beginning of this novel (Random House, 262 pages), pervaded, as one reviewer writes, with “dazzling cinematic bravura,” is worth citing at some length. The protagonist Joe Rose, a science writer, and his wife Clarissa Mellon—a university professor who has just returned to London from the U.S., where she was doing research […]

The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien

IN SURREAL VIETNAM, AND BACK HOME IN THE UNREALITY OF THE U.S.A. The title story of The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction (Houghton-Mifflin, 246 pages, from the Series: Looking Back at Literary Classics of the Past) comes first in the collection, a story cataloging all the different things that an American foot soldier, […]

Thoughts on Publishing and the Plight of the Writer of Literary Fiction

Lot of good ideas by V.N. Alexander, in her recent post on publishing; co-op publishing may be the future. For me the great innovation in book publishing is POD. V.N. Alexander’s article makes it crystal clear why pre-printing an entire run of books–I have, largely, literary fiction in mind–makes absolutely no sense anymore. “Other roles […]

The Good Soldier, by Ford Madox Ford

Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion (“Beati Immaculati”), Vintage Paperback, 1989, 278 pp., with an introduction (“An Interpretation”) by Mark Schorer, and the author’s dedicatory letter to his wife Stella Ford (January 9, 1927). The novel was first published in 1915.  SERIES: LOOKING BACK AT GREAT WORKS OF LITERARY FICTION The […]

On Nikolai Gogol

There’s Gogol, and Then Again, There’s Gogol Among others, Ivan Turgenev could not believe that The Inspector General, the greatest play in Russian literature and “one of the most subversive comedies ever to appear on stage,” was written by the same man who wrote the bloated and ingenuous sentences of the essays in Arabesques—and, later, the moralizing […]