The Book of Other People is simply about character. The 23 authors who each render a character do so in a fantastic variety of ways, from short blurbs (Nick Hornby) through inner monologue (David Mitchell) to pictorial (Chris Ware). Equally the focus of the authors, who were asked to contribute a story each on a character in the name of a non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting young creative writers, is similarly varied. In one instance we watch the expiration of a judge (Heidi Julavits), in another the perspective of a paranoid cultural critic (Jonathan Lethem), a giant (Dave Eggers) and, elsewhere, a child (Andrew Sean Greer), a mother (George Saunders) and a monster (Toby Litt).
* David Ulin has generally kind words for Roy Kesey.
* TEV favorite Sheila Heti conducts this entertaining interview with Dave Hickey at The Believer.
* Nextbook is improving the quality of its contributors with Emma Garman's fine look at the fascinating tale of Romain Gary.
Too famous for his work to be judged without bias, Gary felt he needed to break free from categorization. So, in 1973, at age 59—the same age his mother was when she died—Gary invented Émile Ajar. He was by then twice divorced, retired from the diplomatic corps, and had published 22 books, including the Goncourt-winning The Roots of Heaven (1956), about illegal elephant poaching in Africa. It was time for a new adventure, as he explains in The Life and Death of Émile Ajar: "I was tired of being nothing but myself...there was the nostalgia for one's youth, for one's debut, for one's renewal.... I was profoundly affected by the oldest protean temptation of man: that of multiplicity."
* Publishers Weekly has issued its Books of the Year list.
* Steve Erickson, whose new novel Zeroville is out from Europa Editions, is profiled in the Los Angeles Times.
The surrealism of his novels is all the more powerful for its occasional overlap with the reality of life here. "L.A. has always lent itself to that, to the sense that it's not an altogether natural place to live," said Erickson, 57, recalling the fires at a clamorous eatery at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where he wrote and set parts of "Zeroville," his latest novel. "That at any moment nature, or chaos, will turn on you."
* The November issue of Open Letters Monthly is now online.
* Our turn at Words Without Borders was a bit of a bust, one of those cases of taking on too much at the wrong time. Fortunately, the multi-talented M.A. Orthofer takes over in November leading a discussion on Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s Mandarins. Tune in see how a pro does it.
* The Goncourt Prize winner has been announced.
* We are pleased, indeed, to have The Beiderbecke Affair back after a hiatus and pointing us to an early James Wood essay on Anne Enright.
* : ... the reason their contemporary Degas was able to excel at painting was that he was not as sexually driven and did not experience 'hard-ons'." Van Gogh's correspondence is set to go on display.
* Mailer's latest reviewed by the distinguished Scott McLemee in Newsday.
While "On God" is not among Norman Mailer's best books, it exhibits a degree of coherence and control not found in "The Castle in the Forest," his last raid upon the ineffable.
* What do agents really do? "The most basic thing is that we sell writers' work on a commission basis." And a good bit more, obviously.
* Martin Amis almost apologizes but can't help himself by the end. (Can Amis explain, what, precisely, reclaiming one's religion means to someone who's not, you know, retarded or reactionary?)
He now agrees that suggesting a ban on Muslims flying on planes was wrong, and accepts that the fight against Islamofascism can be won only with the support of moderate Muslims. As apologies go, though, it's hardly abject. "You may wonder why they [moderate Muslims] have been so quiet during all of this, but maybe not so many people in 13th-century Spain said 'I think the Inquisition's gone too far' - you'd be upside down with a red-hot poker up your bum in ten minutes flat. It can't be very easy for them - but why have there been no marches trying to reclaim their religion?"
There's more here in the Financial Times if you've the stomach for it.
* Tom Stoppard featured on NPR.
* Reading a foreign novel is an invitation to visit other people's homes and other countries' private quarters, says Amoz Oz.