I interviewed literary superagent Andrew Wylie over the course of several hours and two separate sit-downs in his midtown office. We only had space for 2,000 words in the magazine, but Wylie supplied a pretty much endless stream of bon mots. (To quote a tweet from Dwight Garner, the man is “incapable of uttering a boring sentence.”) So here are some notable scraps from the cutting room floor:
As several people have pointed out, the folks who concoct Nobel Prize for Literature odds most likely haven't done much reading.
How the literary agent still makes millions off highbrow
Learning from Andrew Wylie
Capturing the zeitgeist is something of an obsession for Dave Eggers. His work includes a recession-era treatise on the everyman’s dwindling power in American life, the near-biography of a Hurricane Katrina survivor (labelled nonfiction), the near-biography of a Sudanese child soldier (labelled fiction), and a film that wistfully captured the horrors of fracking. If you’ve read it about it in The New York Times Sunday Review, chances are Dave Eggers has considered it as source material.
The New York Times Book Review published its sex issue on Sunday, featuring reviews of new works of sex-themed fiction and nonfiction, along with essays and Q&As on subjects such as “What makes a good sex scene?", "Why is writing about sex so difficult?" and “What’s the most erotic book you’ve ever read?”. The word “erotic” showed up 15 times in the issue overall. (“Arouse”: 5, “heavy-petting”: 1.) So just how sexy is a Book Review about sex? You be the judge:
In between bursts of gunfire, blaring submarine sirens, and the clack of spy gadgets, Tom Clancy, who died this week at age 66, often exposed himself as a little bit dreamy, a lot philosophical, and desperately in need of a thorough edit. Some of his attempts to wax philosophical are so comical that Amazon reviewers have taken to posting the choicest bits, like the reader who points out this gem from Netforce: "Lust reared its head inside Tyrone. At the same time, fear dried his mouth to a consistency roughly that of a pile of bones left to bleach in the Gobi desert sunshine."
The easiest point to make about Tom Clancy, who died on Tuesday at the age of 66, is that he was a mediocre writer who penned books with noxious political messages. But he was more interesting than that, even if only as a totemic cultural figure. I haven't read any of his nonfictional output, which mostly deals with military matters, especially the physical details of American military hardware.
There is no other voice in contemporary fiction like the narrator of Mating, Norman Rush’s first novel. An American graduate student doing anthropological work in Botswana, she speaks in a fragrant mix of high and low: polylingual slang and bons mots, academic jargon, allusions to Freud and Shakespeare, an unsqueamish earthiness.
In a strange and unconvincing essay in The New Yorker, Lee Siegel, who made his name as a slashing and smart critic (for a time at The New Republic), writes that he is through with negative book reviews. He mentions a Clive James essay from several months back which lamented the lack of nasty reviews in American publications.
Margaret Atwood and the anti-utopian reading that brings tomorrow’s blistered hellscape today.