Essays

September 30, 2014

A Writer Walks Into a Bar. And Stays. 0

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Raccoon’s has beer-bucket specials starting at 9:30 am. I mean, on a Tuesday morning. This singular fact would qualify it as my favorite bar all on its own.

September 30, 2014

It’s 2014, Do You Know Where You Are? Bright Lights, Big City at 30 5

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The voice at the center of Bright Lights may be spoiled and petulant, but it also is unmistakably American: fatally romantic, distrustful of authority, and democratic to a fault, even as it sounds its barbaric yawp over the rooftop parties of the world.

September 26, 2014

A Thousand Words and Then Some: On Literary Portraiture and Alessandro Baricco’s Mr. Gwyn 0

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Chronicling a fatigued writer’s efforts to reinvent himself as a copyist, a profession which he himself admits doesn’t properly exist, Mr. Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn are the portrait and self-portrait, respectively, of a linguistic portraitist.

September 26, 2014

Kim Philby, Jack Reacher, and Spy-Novel Nationalism 7

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The United States has not developed a spy-novel nationalism able to stand on its own two feet.

September 25, 2014

My Disease Feels Beautiful to Me: On the Work of Raúl Zurita 10

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Zurita was carrying a file, the poems that would become the book Purgatorio, when he was arrested the morning of September 11, 1973, and the arresting officers suspected his papers might include coded messages. The senior military officer who made the final decision about Zurita’s potentially subversive writings threw the poems into the sea.

September 23, 2014

Human Resources: On Joshua Ferris 13

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Rarely has a writer as abundantly praised and rewarded as Joshua Ferris also been misunderstood and even ill-served by reviewers.

September 22, 2014

Influence and Inheritance: New Translations from Spanish Master Giralt Torrente 0

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Giralt Torrente, knowing there is no redemption, still writes the memoir that strives to redeem its subjects.

September 22, 2014

The Trouble with Writing 23

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The trouble with writing is that it is often a roller coaster pitching us between grandiosity and despair.

September 16, 2014

Dan Epstein on the Hairy Goofy Polyester Glory of 1970s Baseball 0

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In Epstein I discovered a smart writer who actually reveled in the cheesiness of the 1970s. And he did it without the killing smirk of irony.

September 15, 2014

The Profits of Dreaming: On Fiction and Sleep 3

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But in the absence of conclusive evidence, sleep’s utility—like that of fiction—is still in doubt. How much, in the end, does either one matter?