Essays

January 10, 2014

Eminent Hacks 2

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We take for granted the difficulty of ascending to the empyrean heights of genius, but descending into the “majesty of mud” poses its own challenges for those unpure hacks not blessed “with all the might of gravitation.” Or to put it in distinctly non-Augustan terms, hackin’ ain’t easy.

January 9, 2014

A Father’s Story: An Elegy for Andre Dubus 5

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Love will bring a man to his knees. What ultimately draws me to Dubus is a fear of myself. It is a fear that has no justification in my history: I have managed to avoid violence, certainly any coming from my own hands. But Dubus’s fiction taps into the preternatural worry that we can turn, in a moment, from a person we have prayed to become to something sharp and wrong. To read Dubus is to be possessed by art.

January 8, 2014

My Not-So-Secret History 5

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Theo, protagonist of The Goldfinch, is my exact age and grew up on the same block as me. He’s a 18th and 19th century British antique dealer; I’m a 18th and 19th century French antique dealer. Popchik, the charming Maltese in the book? Meet ZoZo, the charming Maltese I had from ages 13-27. Things started to get weird…

January 7, 2014

Rare Book Crime Capers: Forgery, Theft, Murder and the Holy Grail of American Printing 1

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It is tempting to say that this was an episode when one of America’s greatest print forgers crossed paths with one of America’s greatest rare book thieves.

January 2, 2014

The Writing on the Museum Wall: When Artists Channel Writers 3

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What these very different artists have in common is a hunger for that most writerly of staples, narrative.

January 2, 2014

Leaked Literature: Why We Should Respect Salinger’s Wishes 13

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Readers will no doubt gain enjoyment from reading the leaked Three Stories manuscript, but they would do well to partially respect the author’s wishes by viewing its stories as experiments from an earlier time.

December 30, 2013

How Many Novelists are at Work in America? 15

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Writing a novel is like starting a small business and investing thousands of hours without knowing exactly what it is you’re going to end up selling. It’s a leap of faith every time, even for someone who is five novels into a career.

November 29, 2013

Science and Fiction: The Man with the Bandaged Head 0

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When I met him, he was sitting up in a hospital bed, his head and half his face encased in bandages. Young, handsome, unshaven, he looked like a veteran of a long-ago foreign war. He gesticulated frantically, wild with focused desire, his exposed eye imploring and bloodshot. I was as desperate to understand as he was to explain.

November 26, 2013

Particular Ways of Being Wrong 19

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All lazy book reviews are essentially the same: they reflect a reviewer’s inability, or perhaps refusal, to fully engage with the writer’s project on the book’s own terms. Lazier still is to not discuss the book but instead the author, to review not the project, but the reputation.

November 25, 2013

Painting a Body of Loss and Love in the Proximity of an Aesthetic 1

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I am not sure if my mother is crying from the beating, from loving him, or because of the broken oven that had survived a civil war but is now not likely to be replaced, and which, although we can’t know that yet, would never bake right again.