Friday High Five: Editing Alice Munro, Buzz Aldrin on Gravity

Why editing Alice Munro isn’t (always) easy

Acclaimed Canadian short-story writer Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize for Literature, becoming its 13th recipient. In a wonderful New Yorker essay, Munro’s editor Deborah Treisman takes us inside the process of editing her prize author - and the way Munro thinks about her work. ‘Editing Alice Munro’s stories is sometimes a lesson in feeling extraneous. As I’m preparing to tell her that the final paragraph isn’t landing right, she is already faxing a new ending; as I mark up page 5, to show that something hasn’t been properly set up, she is calling to say that she has put a new page 5 in the mail.’

Why literary journals exist: A response to Robyn Annear

The internet has been abuzz lately with chatter about Robyn Annear’s recent review of Australian literary journals in The Monthly. She questioned the purpose of these journals, and concluded that they seem generally to support emerging writers rather than to serve readers; she didn’t have much that was complimentary to say about the ten journals she surveyed.

Bronte Coates, one of the founders of Stilts literary journal, has written a thoughtful response on the Readings blog, exploring why her literary journal exists, and why it’s not just okay, but indeed vital that journals be, in Annear’s words, ‘playgrounds for emerging writers’ - and ‘editors, project managers, policy changers and more’.

Buzz Aldrin reviews Gravity

Alfonso Cuaron’s space adventure Gravity is the film of the moment, taking off with critics and audiences alike. James Cameron said, ‘I think it’s the best space photography ever done, I think it’s the best space film ever done, and it’s the movie I’ve been hungry to see for an awful long time.’ In one of the very few dissenting reviews, the New Yorker’s Richard Brody said, ‘It’s hard to recall a movie that’s as viscerally thrilling and as deadly boring as Gravity’.

The Hollywood Reporter has taken a novel approach to reviewing the film, inviting Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, to do the honours. His verdict? He was ‘extravagantly impressed by the portrayal of the reality of zero gravity’.

How true are Malcolm Gladwell’s universal truths?

Should we stop believing Malcolm Gladwell? His books combine storytelling and science to tell vital truths about what it is to be human, exploring what makes us tick. But how true are those truths? A writer at MIT’s science blog Tracker brings together various questionings of Gladwell’s use of academic research over the years, particularly the way he sometimes presents scientific findings removed from context (including how solid the research is, and whether it was subsequently disproved). A Wall Street Journal reviewer says ‘He excels at telling just-so stories and cherry-picking science to back them.’

Does literary fiction teach empathy?

New research published in Science found that after reading literary fiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence. The researchers say this is because literary fiction leaves more to the imagination, leaving it to readers to ‘make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity’.

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