One of my colleagues at BookTour, our CEO, Kevin Smokler, edited this book. I sent him an e-mail when I was finished:
I just finished the book you edited, Writing in Unreaderly Times. I typically write something down after reading, and I figured (if you'll oblige) the editor would be a good audience.
I particularly liked Robert Lanham's piece "The McEggers Tang Clan," though being a big-time David Foster Wallace fan his style disturbed me. I know that comes out of left field (like, what about McSweeney's?!), but for whatever reason that's all I could think about. I regarded it thusly: if he didn't mean to satirize DFW, he quite obviously copied his voice (meta, culturally aware, very male) and ought to be ashamed of himself, because it was — at best — a low-grade facsimile. Otherwise, he wholeheartedly succeeded in lambasting (by lording it over us) DFW's style... and I can't help but be annoyed because DFW's writing is so substantive.
Now it might seem like I'm obsessed, but I noticed that Tom Bissel's "Distractions" noticed the same things as DFW's "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction"... the problem is, he just noticed the things. DFW explained, with remarkable clarity, exactly why today is different from yesterday, how culture has collapsed in upon itself and how TV has anticipated its critics and managed the regress.
I was refreshed by Adam Johnson ("A Call for Collaboration"), and liked the simplicity of Benjamin Nugent's "Security."
For whatever reason (and I bet there are good reasons) I have a hard time liking female writers, but I loved Meghan Daum's piece about "down talkers" who use the phrase "very sort of"... the only thing I'd say is that I mostly hear it like "very... sort've," where the speaker really accelerates on "sort've" and usually launches into something really hand-wavy ( c.f., "it's very.. sort've demanding, the economic modalities that we play to, like we're co-conspirators in our own sort've.. disingenuous — though certainly lucrative — great Depression, if you know what I mean..."). At the end you're like "No, I don't know what you mean."
A lot of the rest of the book I found a little too hip and self-involved (a little too Bird by Bird-ish), but I guess that's what a book about writing by writers has to be like.
Then again, I don't know what I'm talking about because virtually the only fiction I've read in the last three years has been by David Foster Wallace or Neal Stephenson.
Anyway, good read. Thanks.