‘Nowadays, of course, writing is often seen as a profession like any other. To take this year’s Man Booker winner, Eleanor Catton, as an example of what might be seen as a novelist’s ideal career in 2013: one does a degree in English literature, and immediately afterwards a master’s degree in creative writing. Your first published novel is your MA thesis. Afterwards, you are given a post teaching creative writing in a university, and your second novel wins a major prize. Not to criticise the excellent Ms Catton, but this model of a novelist’s career is going to produce novelists with a narrow grasp of human experience, whose novels are increasingly going to have to come from historical research and meta-fictional game-playing and, ultimately, novels about creative writing degrees.’ Philip Hensher on Penelope Fitzgerald
Anyone want to argue with this, by now pretty standard, view?
Eleanor Catton has just won the 2013 Booker prize with what the Guardian terms an ‘innovative Victorian thriller’ (if that’s not a contradiction in terms). Catton is quoted as saying that her novel The Luminaries was ‘very strongly influenced by long-form box-set TV drama … at last the novel has found its on-screen equivalent’. But what does it mean to be influenced by box-set TV drama?Just a matter of length? Or is there more to it? Something non-Victorian?
Congratulations to Alice Munro, Nobel Laureate. Let’s hope that in her case it’s not the ticket to obscurity that it’s been for Sinclair Lewis, Knut Hamsun and so many others.
But a good year for North American short story writers and an excuse to post Munro’s Paris Review interview, and to recommend ‘The Art of Fiction’ series more generally.
‘If The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, had been written by a woman yet still had the same title and wedding ring on its cover, would it have received a great deal of serious literary attention? Or would this novel (which I loved) have been relegated to “Women’s Fiction,” that close-quartered lower shelf where books emphasizing relationships and the interior lives of women are often relegated?’ Read more of Meg Wolitzer’s article on ‘the rules of literary fiction fiction for men and women’
Congratulations to Jenny who has won a Pilkington Prize in recognition of her work developing Masters in Creative Writing and Advanced Subject Teaching at the Institute for Continuing Education.
The White Review‘s current featured article is a collaboration between literary critic David Trotter and painter Vanessa Hodgkinson on ‘Technoprimitivism’