How to Read a Novelist

John Freeman, Author
John Freeman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $15 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-374-17326-5
Reviewed on: 07/08/2013
Release date: 10/08/2013
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Award-winning writer and critic Freeman (The Tyranny of Email), editor-in-chief of Granta, has collected 55 interviews in which the great literary lights of our time “explain what it is they don’t want left out.” In pithy, penetrating profiles, Freeman discusses “the consolation of narrative” with a diverse roster of authors including Richard Ford, Toni Morrison, Kazuo Ishiguro, Aleksandar Hemon, David Foster Wallace, Mohsin Hamid, Marilynne Robinson, Ayu Utami, Jonathan Franzen, Jennifer Egan, Mo Yan, Philip Roth, and many more. In an insightful preface, Freeman describes the allure of the biographical sketch: we read about our favorite writers because we want to understand how a disembodied, imaginative world emerges from the body of the artist. At the same time, it would be foolish to insist that the details of an author’s life and writing can explain the mysteries of fiction, or vice versa. To read about the personal, emotional, mental, political, and artistic struggles and triumphs of great writers is to see them as flesh and blood human beings, but that is not the same as understanding how and why people succeed in making transcendent art. These intimate and thoughtful sketches are supplementary pieces to that transcendent work. Agent: Sarah Burnes, the Gernert Company. (Oct.)
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