Essays

April 15, 2014

Crimean Rites 0

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It’s February 4, 1937. The poet Osip Mandelstam is in Voronezh, a provincial city deep in the Russian steppe. He has one year left to live.

April 11, 2014

You’ve Got Mail: On the New Age of Biography 3

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After centuries of shuffling papers, biographers must now deal with the sudden digitization of the self, and the behavioral changes that have followed.

April 10, 2014

Viral Video: The Most Famous 15-Year-Old Basketball Player in America 3

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But Woods’s weight as prep basketball’s premier Internet phenomenon — and how dominant he looks in his highlights — might give a false impression of his chances at future success. It’s entirely possible Woods is at the height of his fame right now. I went to the Hammond School to see what that kind of uniquely modern sports celebrity felt like in person.

April 10, 2014

Sweep, Harvest, Gather: Mapping Metaphors to Fight Surveillance 2

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To better understand how metaphors are being used in coverage of surveillance, PEN embarked on a study of articles by journalists and bloggers. There is rich thematic diversity in the types of metaphors that are used, but there is also a failure of imagination in using literature to describe surveillance.

April 9, 2014

Appetite for Risk: At the Intersection of Video Games and Literature 13

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The literary world and the video games world could greatly benefit each other. Even a conversation, let alone the beginning of real collaborations and dialogues, would help each contend with their respective shortcomings.

April 9, 2014

Hug Your Darlings, Give the Moon the Finger: Writers On Delight 6

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It’s miraculous that these little darlings didn’t get killed in the rewriting process.

April 4, 2014

Are We Entering a Golden Age of the Second Novel? 5

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If a first novel fails to become a blockbuster, as almost all of them do, publishers are less inclined to get behind the follow-up by a writer who has gained a dubious track record but has lost that most precious of all literary selling points: novelty. Writers get only one shot at becoming The Next Big Thing.

March 28, 2014

On Literary Cravings and Aftertastes 2

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I had a voracious appetite to consume certain books I’d read long ago, revisiting passages that had always been especially moving. Or — and this was fun and also eerie in its accuracy — I found myself submitting to cravings for books I had never before read but the combined language, plot, and characters of which turned out to produce the perfect meal of prose for this pregnant bibliophile.

March 21, 2014

The Dark Quotient: On Victoria Redel and Destructive Characters 0

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The issue of how adults in Redel’s fiction respond to children has reemerged following the recent publication of her short story collection Make Me Do Things. The compulsion suggested by the title reflects the tendency of her characters to lurch toward problematic, even dangerous choices.

March 14, 2014

Multiplicity of Me: On Race, Fatherhood, and James Baldwin 3

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I think that what makes Baldwin’s work resonate as it does is that what he describes in his writing are not necessarily historically contingent reflections on race, but moments of subjective epiphany; moments in which he realized that he was a subject upon whom the world placed certain ideas that may or may not have aligned with the person Baldwin saw himself to be.