THE CRACK-UP, recently reprinted by New Directions, collects F. Scott Fitzgerald's working journals, essays, and letters. There are sketches biographical, as in the eponymous essay, which chronicles his downfall at age thirty-nine, and in his letters (to Eliot, Stein, Wharton). And then there are the sketches literary: snippets of stories and characters and dialogues, which the ever-writing F. Scott kept in working journals alphabetized into unconventional categories. C is for "conversations and things overheard," D is for "descriptions of girls," E is for "epigrams," and F is for "feelings and emotions (without girls)." Collected by Edmund Wilson only just after Fitzgerald's death, this genre-defying work operates on a variety of levels: it provides insight into the novelist's process, relationships, life, and the works-that-could-have-been, but it’s also just the right compromise: flash fiction avant le lettre—and from F. Scott!

The Crack-Up Cover Image
ISBN: 9780811218207
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: New Directions - February 27th, 2009

James Wood, a staff writer for The New Yorker and lecturer in literature at Harvard, describes the devices a novelist uses to convey a story to the reader. How Fiction Works (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24) covers a wide range in the genre, from the novels of Austen to those of Graham Greene. Reading Wood’s slim and erudite guide to literature caused me to plan a rereading of Flaubert, who “decisively established what most readers and writers think of as modern realistic narrative.” Wood cites passages from John Updike’s The Terrorist that significantly added to my understanding of the different ways the puppeteer was pulling the strings. Wood is a friendly, plain-speaking guide, even in areas where the layers of the creative process get dense.  What do Austen, Roth, and David Foster Wallace have in common?  The use of different registers, which is a literary way of saying the author uses diction specific to different characters, whether vernacular, pompous, or clichéd.

How Fiction Works Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312428471
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Picador - July 21st, 2009

 In Promised Land: Thirteen Books that Changed America (Doubleday, $24.95), Jay Parini, a novelist and teacher, has compiled a list of literary works that were instrumental in “shaping the nation’s idea of itself” by having “shifted consciousness in some public fashion.”  Parini’s selections include the novels Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; essays, like The Federalist Papers; and biographies, like Mary Antin’s The Promised Land. This collection will make a wonderful reading list for a class or bookgroup. Parini’s own essays weave a history of each work with his take on the author’s intentions and the effect the book had when published.

Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307386182
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Anchor - January 12th, 2010