Essays

April 16, 2015

How Will I Live? Fame, Money, Day Jobs, and Fiction Writing. 8

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What happened in those eight missing years to make a well-reviewed, commercially successful author fall so far so fast? Heartbreak? Rehab? Addiction to designer shoes? Easy: She took the wrong day job.

April 13, 2015

Portraits of Human Nature: Anthony Trollope at 200 1

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Trollope gives us the cad who is not quite entirely caddish, the woman who works hard to maintain a prudent marriage without forgetting the imprudent one she had wanted. Nothing could be less like Dickens’s stark portraits of saints and fiends moving through a black-and-white world in which the roads to perdition and redemption, though possible to miss, are nonetheless clearly marked.

April 9, 2015

So Many Hills: Writing as Training 1

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The constant desire to be a faster, better runner has helped me channel competition as a writer without being sidelined by it. My hunger is different than ambition. I know that I am ultimately only racing against myself.

April 8, 2015

Remember This Fondly: On Reading Roald Dahl to My Son 2

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I can think of no other time that my son will sit, his head propped on my shoulder, for a half an hour or more. That I can sense the drama popping in his mind as I read is an obvious added bonus. Reading storybooks has put us at the neat intersection of stillness and excitement.

April 7, 2015

Sordid, Unprofitable, Unrewarding: On ‘New Grub Street’ and Cynical Literature 0

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Gissing’s portrait of squabbling critics, disappointed writers, and the final triumph of literary middlemen is so obviously comparable to our own time that it ought to serve as required reading for anyone planning yet another thinkpiece on contemporary publishing.

April 3, 2015

Difficult, Dated, Frustrating, Prophetic: Teaching Thomas Pynchon 15

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The movement toward skills-based education in the humanities has also created an effort-return mentality: the expectation that a text can, or should, be distilled into a single sentence. Don’t we want students who know how to handle messes?

April 2, 2015

Unquote: The Benefits of Excising Quotation Marks 16

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Let’s let the voice of our characters sing, come to life –– let their words pop of the page, because they are no longer chained to it.

March 31, 2015

Getting Meta about Mules: Faulkner and the Fine Art of Slowing Down 1

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The Reivers is a thematic wolf in sheep’s clothing, and remains one of the weightiest road-trip novels ever written.

March 30, 2015

Eight for Eight: A Literary Reader for Passover 0

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What follows is a literary sampling inspired by Pesach: eight books for the eight nights of the holiday.

March 27, 2015

Scorebooks and Commonplace Books 0

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Though the scorebook does occasionally record the spectacular, for the most part its method is antithetical to the commonplace book. One chronicles the monotonous; the other collects the exceptional.