JR: I’ve been a huge fan of The Millions for a long time, and check in daily. I love the stable of writers they have, and the content is not only detailed, (enviable) but informative. I’d say 50% of my reading choices come from that site. So when I heard C. Max Magee and Jeff Martin were editing a collection of essays about the future of the novel, I salivated. The first essay I read was Emily St. John Mandel’s “The Chamelon Machine“, a device she’s congured up that would resemble an electronic reader but has content that morphs into any book you want. The idea is magical, witty, and prescient. Mandel admits to loving her machines, but she digs turning the page. If you know me at all, then you’ve read or are going to read Mandel’s novels, The Last Night In Montreal and The Singer’s Gun. Another voice from the future of the novel is Victoria Patterson, author of Drift, (a Where I’m Calling From for the 22nd Century) and the forthcoming This Vacant Paradise. Ms. Patterson broods over her writing, she doesn’t fear the end of the book business, and tells a very funny story about her son who gets one of his own short stories adapted to the stage.
Here at Three Guys One Book, we’ve discussed the future of the novel, at length, and in this collection of essays we meet a group of not so typical writers who will most likely shape the novels we will read in the future; Rivka Galchen, Joe Meno, Michael Paul Mason, Clancy Martin, Owen King, John Brandon, Benjamin Kunkel, Lauren Groff, Rudolph Delson, Nancy Jo Sales, Katherine Taylor, Kyle Beachy, Joshua Gaylord, Tom Piazza, Garth Risk Hallberg, Sonya Chung, Ander Monson, Victor LaValle, Emily St. John Mandel, Victoria Patterson, Elizabeth Crane, Deb Olin Unferth, David Gates and Jonathan Lethem, Marco Roth, Reif Larsen, and Thomas Allen. We’ve heard from everyone on this list in more ways than one, but who outside the world of independent bookstores, or the percentage of people who read literary blogs, know about this group? This is a formindable bunch. This isn’t The New Yorker’s list of people under 40, and to be honest, who really needs a list like that, with age as the guiding requirment? Really? Okay, have it your way. What I wonder is; who will read those under 40 writers if they weren’t published in the New Yorker, or on a list compiled by a magazine? Sure, most lists have the taste of the editors and we can all come up with a group that we think is right or better. I will admit, I’d read Josh Ferris, no matter how old he is.
Lets say two-hundred thousand people read literary fiction in America today, and that’s generous. Forget the rest of the world. How do they hear about literary novels? Really…how? Because they read Three Guys One Book or The Millions? The Late American Novel: Writers On The Future of Books will give you years worth of reading material if you just go out and pick up one book from each writer and read it, just one. I’ve mentioned two of my favorite writers in this book, but shouldn’t everyone read Vacation by Deb Olin Unferth? And Jernigan by David Gates, (it’s so good, please find it and read it). There are so many perfect, crystalized and profound essays in this book that you’ll be hard pressed to put it down.
It will give people who always ask; “can you recommened anything good to read?” a place to start reading.