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Posts Tagged ‘[Susan] Sontag’

Jonathan Franzen Criticizes Author Videos in New Author Video

Over at Farrar, Straus and Giroux’s new multimedia newsletter, Work in Progress, novelist Jonathan Franzen has recorded an author video that questions the idea of creating an author video in the first place.

Here’s an excerpt from the brief video: “This might be a good place for me to register my profound discomfort at having to make videos like this. To me, the point of a novel is to take you to a still place. You can multitask with a lot of things, but you can’t really multitask reading a book. You’re either reading a book or you’re not. To me, the world of books is the quiet alternative, an ever more desperately needed alternative. I understand that not everyone sees it that way; I understand that a lot of commerce happens online now–so I think it makes eminently good sense to be recording little videos like this.”

We at GalleyCat Reviews wonder: How do you review an author video? Franzen’s new novel Freedom has already generated a Vogue profile and a Time cover story. Last month, the new FSG newsletter featured a letter from the imprint’s archive, reminding us that late Susan Sontag was once a struggling author too.

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Susan Sontag Was Once a Struggling Author

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Today Farrar, Straus and Giroux launched its new multimedia Work in Progress newsletter with a feature on the late Susan Sontag–including the letter (pictured) that publicists sent to literary critics and authors to promote her first book.

It should cheer up all the aspiring authors in the audience–even Sontag was a struggling writer once. The entry also contains an audio clip from 2000, as Sontag spoke with Robert Stone and William Styron.

The newsletter features a conversation between publisher Jonathan Galassi and author Jeffrey Eugenides, as the publisher struggles to uncover the title of his next novel.

Here’s more from the post: “FSG has published Susan Sontag since her debut novel The Benefactor. Here are a few selections from an archive of almost fifty years of material. Note the pitch-perfect location for the Volcano Lover publication party, and the lines from the teenage Sontag’s diary on the back of At the Same Time.”

Several Figures Directly Included in Speech

One wouldn’t necessarily think that essayist and thinker Susan Sontag could generate fresh news – what with her having died recently – but as the Observer’s Michael Calderone reports, a 2004 speech just published in a posthumous collection by FSG has sparked some controversy for the discovery that a section on hyperfiction owes a great debt (almost word for word) to a New York Times Book Review piece by Laura Miller in 1998. The similarities were discovered by John Lavagnino, a senior lecturer in humanities and computing at King’s College London, who wrote a short letter to the editor published in the Times Literary Supplement:

“Shortly after personal computers and word-processing programs became commonplace tools for writers, a brave new future for fiction was trumpeted,” Miller had written in the lead of her New York Times Book Review piece.

“Ever since word-processing programs became commonplace tools for most writers-including me-there have been those who assert that there is now a brave new future for fiction,” were the words Sontag delivered in the 2004 lecture.

Miller also wrote: “Hypertext is sometimes said to mimic real life, with its myriad opportunities and surprising outcomes…”

Sontag wrote: “Hyperfiction is sometimes said to mimic real life, with its myriad opportunities and surprising outcomes…”

FSG publisher Jonathan Galassi said that Sontag “didn’t prepare the speech for publication” but that if the allegations prove true, a correction will be added in future printings. Meanwhile, Miller said to Calderone that she initially thought that Sontag “lifted my research” – committing what might amount to a literary misdemeanor. “When I actually sat down and read it,” she said, “it was more than that. The kind of irony is that it was in a lecture on morality and literature.”

One of the Easiest Answers Ever Published

  • “Why, why, why would a company publish a book this good and then practically demand that people not read it?” he asks. “Why not put the heroine on the jacket… [and] “sell this baby a little?” – Stephen King on FIELDWORK by Mischa Berlinski, Entertainment Weekly
  • “[H]ow do you sell someone as strange, original and indisputably non-American as Roberto Bolano in a U.S. market surrounded, as [Susan] Sontag once wrote, by a “wall of indifference to foreign literature” — a market in which…less than .5 percent of the books published are fiction in translation?” – Bob Thompson on THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES by Roberto Bolano, The Washington Post

The answer: You’re FSG! Your name does all the work! Media comes to you, not the other way around! You don’t have to worry about selling oodles and oodles of copies because your name is your brand (something that HarperCollins and Random House would probably kill for, by the way.) You sit in your ivory towers and ruminate on why the general population can’t possibly understand the virtues of poetry and highbrow intelligentsia and make very, very sure to state over and over that, no we couldn’t possibly publish chick lit in any way, shape or form. Can’t anyone understand? Won’t those mainstream media nincompoops get with the program?! You’re FSG! You rule the literary Britannia!