The novel is alive and well, thank you very much
For the last fifteen years, whenever a novel was published, John Freeman was there to greet it. As a critic for more than two hundred newspapers worldwide, the onetime president of the National Book Critics Circle, and the former editor of Granta, he has reviewed thousands of books and interviewed scores of writers. In How to Read a Novelist, which pulls together his very best profiles (many of them new or completely rewritten for this volume) of the very best novelists of our time, he shares with us what he's learned.
From such international stars as Doris Lessing, Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie, and Mo Yan, to established American lions such as Don DeLillo, Norman Mailer, Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson, Philip Roth, John Updike, and David Foster Wallace, to the new guard of Edwidge Danticat, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Franzen, and more, Freeman has talked to everyone.
What emerges is an instructive and illuminating, definitive yet still idiosyncratic guide to a diverse and lively literary culture: a vision of the novel as a varied yet vital contemporary form, a portrait of the novelist as a unique and profound figure in our fragmenting global culture, and a book that will be essential reading for every aspiring writer and engaged reader—a perfect companion (or gift!) for anyone who's ever curled up with a novel and wanted to know a bit more about the person who made it possible.
Award-winning writer and critic Freeman (The Tyranny of Email), editor-in-chief of Granta, has collected 55 interviews in which the great literary lights of our time "explain what it is they don't want left out." In pithy, penetrating profiles, Freeman discusses "the consolation of narrative" with a diverse roster of authors including Richard Ford, Toni Morrison, Kazuo Ishiguro, Aleksandar Hemon, David Foster Wallace, Mohsin Hamid, Marilynne Robinson, Ayu Utami, Jonathan Franzen, Jennifer Egan, Mo Yan, Philip Roth, and many more. In an insightful preface, Freeman describes the allure of the biographical sketch: we read about our favorite writers because we want to understand how a disembodied, imaginative world emerges from the body of the artist. At the same time, it would be foolish to insist that the details of an author's life and writing can explain the mysteries of fiction, or vice versa. To read about the personal, emotional, mental, political, and artistic struggles and triumphs of great writers is to see them as flesh and blood human beings, but that is not the same as understanding how and why people succeed in making transcendent art. These intimate and thoughtful sketches are supplementary pieces to that transcendent work.
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HOW TO READ A NOVELIST
Reading this book is like attending a convention with a lineup that includes many of your living literary heroes (and a few dead ones), and a number of those you might not necessarily admire but still want to hear talk about their process. John Freeman has spoken to all of them and delivers up the goods. A vital and beautiful book!