This column will appear in print in the Dec. 19, 2010 issue of the Book Review. On the Web, the best-seller lists and the “Inside the List” column are available one week early.
By JENNIFER SCHUESSLER
Published: December 10, 2010
DARK HORSE: When Jaimy Gordon’s “Lord of Misrule” — No. 30 on this week’s extended hardcover fiction list — shot out of nowhere to win the National Book Award last month, most reviewers were caught flat-footed. At awards time, only a handful of publications had reviewed the book, including The Washington Post, where Jane Smiley praised Gordon’s ear for dialogue and “eye for a horse,” and The Daily Racing Form, which saluted her vivid evocation of a low-stakes West Virginia racetrack in the early 1970s.
In an interview with The Daily Racing Form, Gordon — who spent a few youthful years working as a groom and hot walker at a track not unlike her fictional Indian Mound Downs — said of racetrack people, “Plenty of them are generous souls, they’re not crybabies, they’re not too moralistic, which suited me fine.” The experience seems to have given her a keen nose for slummers and fakers. Nearly 30 years ago, in a review of an anthology of work from university writing programs, Gordon lamented the vogue for unconvincing stories about blue-collar life, asking, “What does it signify that a literary generation, so consistently well educated and upper middle class, . . . has no stomach for the exploration of its own personality and circumstances?”
DEAD LEAFY GREENS: Attention completists! Gordon once wrote and performed a five-minute, one-song musical called “The Lettuce Vampire.” Alas, it does not seem to have been published (though don’t you wish Edward Gorey were still around to design the sets?). But Gordon did give a hint of her compositional style in a 1983 interview with the literary journal Gargoyle: “I can write a rather wistful and simple ditty, no more. But that would not deter me from writing the score for a 10-minute opera. I listen to a lot of Weill and Schumann. My music is like Weill and Schumann mixed together and simplified for a 10-year-old.” Gordon, who has become an overnight folk hero to unsung writers, also had some salty things to say about the anemic state of serious reading: “The number of people I know who really love books other than their own is small, and yet I know hundreds of writers. I haven’t come up with any remedies yet, but I think about it often, just as though there were a future to consider.”
TAKE TWO: Alas, there was no Tom Cruise-style couch-jumping when Jonathan Franzen finally appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on Dec. 6, more than nine years after Winfrey had disinvited him. Here’s how Franzen — strolling onstage after a long segment about a New Jersey family’s secret 25-year friendship with Michael Jackson — summed up the media firestorm that ignited after he called some of Winfrey’s book club choices “schmaltzy” and “one dimensional,” among other comments: “I spoke in very long sentences, and then little pieces of those sentences sounded bad, and your feelings were probably, understandably, hurt.” (Cross my heart, that’s a complete quote.) Franzen’s “Freedom” is back at No. 14 on this week’s hardcover fiction list.
FONTE: New York Times
URL FONTE: http://www.nytimes.com/
URL MATÉRIA: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/19/books/review/InsideList-t.html