Monday, August 27, 2007


This is an excerpt from an interview with Norman Mailer conducted by Andrew O'Hagan, in the Summer issue of The Paris Review, and reprinted in the September issue of Harper's Magazine.

The question asked by O'Hagan was: Do you think America is a good place in which to practice the arts?

Mailer's reply: When I was young it was marvelous for a writer. It's the reason we have so many good writers in America -- most of our literature had not yet been written. English novelists had all the major eighteenth and, and nineteenth, century geniuses to deal with and go beyond. What did we have to go beyond? A few great writers, Melville and Hawthorne. The list is very short. For us, the field was wide open. Now we're beleaguered. The movies were bad enough, though American novelists always felt a certain superiority to what was going on in Hollywood. You weren't learning more about human nature from films, you were just being entertained -- at some cost to learn a little more about why we're here, which I think is one of the remaining huge questions. Now people grow up with television, which has an element within it that is absolutely inimical to serious reading, and that is the commercial. Anytime you're interested in a narrative, you know it's going to be interrupted every seven to ten minutes, which will shatter any concentration. Kids watch television and lose all interest in sustained narrative. As a novelist, I really feel I'm one of the elders of a dying craft. It once was an art, and now it'd down to being a craft and that craft is going soon. The answer to your question is this: America is no longer a good place to be a novelist, and once it was a wonderful place.


Mailer's most recent novel, The Castle in the Forest, was published by Random House in January. O'Hagan's third novel, Be Near Me, was published by Harcourt in June. You might want to check out the complete Mailer interview in either one of the two publications listed above. If you have any strong feelings on the subject feel free to enter your comment below. I hope a few people will read them. I am sure this blog has relatively few readers. Considerably more Internet users obviously prefer watching things like being cats tortured, or men falling off ladders, things which are supposed to make us laugh on sites like YouTube

We are always interested in submissions. You can send short pieces, fiction, non-fiction, or poetry to us at:


Below is a poster for an art exhibition you might find interesting if you are in the Ithaca, NY area. The show was put together by Rebecca Godin, who also designed the poster.

Sidney Grayling, editor




Wednesday, August 1, 2007


SO YOU'VE BEEN SENDING around your manuscript, following all the advice you have gleaned from those "how to get published" books and articles. You wait six months to get a response addressed to "Dear Author" telling you Mr. Big Time Agent receives so many letters he can't be bothered to write to you by name, but he assures you that he has "given your material serious consideration," and has determined it is "not right for us," but that "other agents might feel differently." Good luck.

 What he has not said is that you were not the hot chick he met at a party in Brooklyn thrown by a currently best-selling writer. He just loved her collection of short stories about hankey-pankey in trailer parks, written in short, easy to read sentences. Nor are you the cute MFA candidate he encountered at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. He couldn't put down her novel about corn-fed robot zombies attacking the citizens of Kokomo, Indiana.

It doesn't cheer you up when you read that Jane Austen sent the manuscript of "Pride and Prejudice" to a publisher under an assumed name and that within six weeks it was a finished book, which has never gone out of print. But what if Jane were alive today?

A story in the July 27, GUARDIAN WEEKLY, tells of David Lassman, the director of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England, cheekily submitting the scarcely altered work of Austen to eighteen of the UK's biggest and brightest agents and publishers. He was surprised to find that all but one sent back polite, but firm, rejection slips.

Lassman's trick was not the least bit subtle. Calling himself Alison Laydee, a play on Austen's nom de plume A Lady, he typed up chapters from three of his hero's most famous books, with a few changes of names and re-worked titles. Apparently only one editor, Alex Bowler, of the publisher Jonathan Cape, was familiar with the opening sentence of "Pride and Prejudice" and caught the ruse. He wrote back to Lassman expressing his "disbelief and mild annoyance, along, of course, with a moments laughter." 

So keep sending out those manuscripts. Maybe you will have better luck than the resurrected Jane Austen



I hope you enjoyed this short piece excerpted from the Guardian Weekly. And don't forget to check the archives for postings you may have missed. If you would like to send us something see our requirements in the sidebar. I guarantee you we won't take six months to respond.

Sidney Grayling, editor