• Hitch on One Hundred Years: “For this reader, the most arresting episode in the Macondo saga was the epidemic of insomnia that afflicted the tribe.”
  • The Esquire Napkin Project features contributions by A.M. Homes, Jonathan Ames, Aimee Bender, Andrew Sean Greer, and many more authors.
  • James Gibbons on Paul Auster: “Novelists, of course, are not obliged to occupy themselves with a fine-grained depiction of external reality, so in remarking on the abstract terrain of Auster’s books I mean primarily to underscore how anomalous his success is. Simply put, neither American writers nor American readers tend to go in for the kind of fiction that Auster has made his specialty, and it’s unsurprising that Auster enjoys not just wide readership but also prestige internationally, particularly in France, that well exceeds his critical reputation in the United States.” (via The Publishing Spot)
  • Jeff VanderMeer opines that BSG is beginning to suck. I agree. And yet when Annalee Newitz boldly put forth this proposition late last year, she was greeted by a torrent of denouncements from mad fanboys. The question is when this artistic declivity will be recognized by the more rabid BSG viewers. I don’t know whether to give up on the show or hope that it will get better. I keep watching, but only when I am suffering from insomnia or my brain power has depleted to near zero. Ron Moore has not written a single episode this season other than the two-hour premiere, and I suspect that he’s abdicated on his duties. Do we really need a BSG spinoff? I’d rather see attentions directed towards one good show instead of two substandard ones.
  • Charlie Stross on the writer’s lifestyle. (via Speedysnail)
  • Flickr has forced its users to get Yahoo IDs. Small wonder that Fotolog has overtaken Flickr. Treat your users as if they are prisoners forced to register for a stalag and they go elsewhere.
  • What kind of reader are you? Me? I’m a “Dedicated Reader.” (via Bookblog)
  • Sidney Sheldon has passed on, forcing readers to find another prolific hack writer to read on airplanes.
  • Flatland: The Movie! (via Books, Inq.
  • Over at Mark’s place, Daniel Olivas talks with Daniel Alarcón.
  • The Existence Machine on Children of Men.
  • Oh! My! Goodness! Radio! Radio! Radio! (via Condalmo)


  1. “forcing readers to find another prolific hack writer to read on airplanes”

    Never fear. James Patterson is more than up to the task.

  2. Insulting the dead, classy move.

    Heaven forbid a writer doesn’t pen books you personally find worthwhile, otherwise they will find their entire existence pared down to one pithy insulting sentence. I’m sure Mr. Sheldon’s family will be heartened to know such insightful retrospectives are being written about him.

    I’m a fan of your work, but smacking down a man whose only crime was written books you don’t personally enjoy seems unnecessarily cruel.

  3. Mr. Pinter: That sentence’s tone was intended as playful, but if calling anyone, living or dead, “a hack writer” is the height of cruelty, then I shudder at the nature of your political correctness.

    First off, it’s not as if I suggested that Mr. Sheldon sodomized dogs, molested small children, or was a dutiful member of the John Birch Society.

    I put forth the following scenarios to you:

    When Richard Nixon died, did you ignore Watergate?

    When George Wallace or Strom Thurmond died, did you ignore their racism?

    When Regan died, did you ignore the pernicious consequences of Reaganomics?

    Likewise, when Sidney Sheldon dies (as he has), do you ignore his despicable contributions (at least from my reading encounters) to literature? No, you don’t.

    It’s not as if I’m Christopher Hitchens wielding a poison pen here about Mother Teresa. We’re talking about two words: “hack writer.”

    But this notion of offering assumptive fellatio to anyone who kicks the bucket disgusts me, and not just for its necrophiliac imputations. Should not one be aware of the COMPLETE portrait of a person, living or dead? Why do we stop to pay our “respects” when we would have said something entirely different during a dead person’s life?

    And as testament to my stance, should I kick the bucket and by some odd development receive some kind of ridiculous attention for my death, I hereby invite any of my fans, critics or enemies to report of my infirmities, debilitations, sins, and whatever else they feel might shed a complete portrait of me.

    No human being is perfect, Mr. Pinter, except during that interim of partisan hosannas a few days after the human’s death.

  4. As far as I know, Sidney Sheldon was not a racist and did not misuse the presidential office. Again his sole crime, from your estimation, was writing books you didn’t care for, which in proper perspective is a sin as vile as not eating his vegetables. He did not, again as far as I know, negatively impact any aspect of anyone’s life other than those with “refined” literary taste buds.

    I am far from partisan here. I’m not defending Sidney Sheldon as a novelist–I can’t say I’m a fan of his works–but I am defending him as a person who by all accounts was a decent human being whose family is grieving his death. Calling someone a “prolific hack writer” does anything but paint a complete portrait, and while this is a website largely dedicated to the literary arts, in my view it seemed more pernicious to sum up a person’s existence in such a manner.

    In addition, since your criticisms seemed directed at his books rather than films or television shows, Mr. Sheldon wrote approximately 20 books in a 47 year writing career. Hardly prolific, especially when compared to authors like Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King or any number of authors who have written far more books in a much shorter timeframe. If those authors have been called hacks, it has not been due to their prolific nature (ok, maybe Stephen King has).

    This is a separate debate, but I also don’t believe one can equate being prolific with being a hack. Plenty of great writers put out a book or more per year, while many hack-worthy authors have far more sparse offerings.

    In any event I agree that upon a person’s death often their sins are forgotten, but I can think of far greater sins than writing popular books. At least he got some people reading, which is hard enough these days.

  5. Mr. Pinter: Okay, you make a fair case for the frequency of Mr. Sheldon’s output. I take back “prolific.” I applied this modifier because Sheldon’s books seemed to appear everywhere to me, much as fungus grows from a dirty laundry pile if you leave it in one place long enough.

    It is the term “hack writer” that we are concerned with here. As far as I’m concerned, and maybe this just makes me quirky, writing vile books that cater to the lowest common denominator can be as barbarous an act as murdering an infant. Being subjected to bad prose DOES negatively impact people, which in turn sprouts writers who wish to duplicate it and must unlearn their mangling of the English language.

    Sure, Sheldon has a grieving family. So did Nixon, Reagan, Wallace, et al. That’s not the point here. The point is that Sheldon WAS a hack writer.

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