Essays

March 12, 2015

Our Best Work: On Man Ray’s Hollywood Album and Me 1

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Something sticks with me, though: What you do to pay the bills is your life’s work. You drive the 405 and take the tram or shuttle and sit at your desk. You have lunch with your supervisor. There are sick days and vacation days and time in between.

March 12, 2015

In a Weird Way: A Brief History 1

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In the early 20th century, “in a weird way” begins to loosen its meaning, allowing for new possibilities: not only to describe an externally observed “weird” occurrence or action, but to convey a particular kind of internal subjective state of questioning uncertainty.

March 11, 2015

When Students Workshop Their Teacher 2

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I recognize that some teachers will hesitate to cede power to their students in this manner. But if I am willing to let a classroom of teenagers read, edit, and critique my work, then undergraduate and graduate instructors might consider it.

March 11, 2015

At The Blue Dolphin: On Mothers and Sons 5

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I wanted to be the mother, but I did not have the least idea of how to do that. This is the love I have, I told him. It feels big and powerful, but there’s no way to know if it, if I, will be worthy of you.

March 9, 2015

AudioVox: On Nicholson Baker, Audiobooks, and Reading 1

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I’m not averse to the idea of female ejaculation, and so when I heard female ejaculation mentioned quite loudly in an otherwise quiet room I looked up with the sort of expression that probably said something like, “Why, sure, I have a healthy curiosity about female ejaculation, so please, by all means, if you have something new to share on the subject, proceed!”

March 5, 2015

Primate Lit: On Suspension of Disbelief and Monkeys in Fiction 4

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What all of the stories in this category have in common, I would argue, is that their very existence depends on their monkeys. Sure, they could have been written without them, but without the primate-primate connection between monkey and human, these stories wouldn’t be the same at all.

March 4, 2015

An Infinite Maze: On the Many Voices of the Dublin Murder Squad 2

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These novels generate vertiginous thrills as they dramatize the difficulties of understanding ourselves, other people, and the world at large.

March 3, 2015

Fixed by Camel: On Gender, Books, and Children 0

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Imposing my version of gender, my preference for skepticism and nonconformity, isn’t any more appropriate or healthy than forcing him into army fatigue onesies or calling him “Daddy’s Big Guy.”

February 23, 2015

The Art of the Final Sentence 14

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For writers, the last sentences aren’t about reader responsibility at all — it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to stop worrying about what comes next, because nothing does. No more keeping the reader interested, no more wariness over giving the game away. This is the best time for a writer to get real, to depict reality as they see it, without compromises, without fear.

February 18, 2015

The Art of the Chapter 6

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You want to know how weird and deep my rabbit hole goes? I’ve developed what I’ll call an eccentricity about chapters.