Essays

September 17, 2013

Taut, Not Trite: On the Novella 6

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Most reviews of novellas begin with similar elements: the writer’s arbitrary word count parameter, why “novella” sounds more diminutive than “short novel,” and a lament that publishers are unwilling to support the form. This essay is not such an apology.

September 16, 2013

Calling My Grandmother (Or, Why I Write Fiction) 2

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A fellow expat once said to me that people of our generation who have stayed in Russia don’t think about the Soviet Union as intensely as we who have moved to America do. I think this difference has to do with our liminal space of language, our emotional core, which connects us to the fall, keeps us thinking about the place, keeps us building stories.

September 16, 2013

Rare Talent, Imperfect Art 10

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The writer — forced into a seemingly endless series of student conferences and reading a seemingly endless pile of student poems and stories and essays — sacrificing herself. Maybe there’s no getting around the exhaustion part of it all. At least, maybe, we can be tired but respected.

September 12, 2013

Letter of the Law: On J.D. Salinger, Unpublished Works, and US Copyright 2

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Curiously, though, under all three sets of rules — copyright, fair use, and most archive policies — I am free to use my iPad to take good resolution images of unpublished manuscripts so long as I don’t share them publicly. Who can say if this extends to the privacy of my own home where I might convert an unused closet into a Salinger shrine? Such is the fickleness of U.S. copyright law.

September 12, 2013

The Homeland of Stories: On Lingual and Cultural Identity 0

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Can an identity that expresses itself in two separate ways — through two languages and in two cultures — be said to be authentic? If your identity flickers between Greek and American, what exactly is your identity, and how do you designate it?

September 11, 2013

The St. Louis Invasion: Jonathan Franzen’s The Twenty-Seventh City at Twenty-Five 4

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Jonathan Franzen’s deeply ambivalent portrait of St. Louis in The Twenty-Seventh City is in some ways the dark twisted fantasy of a native son. After almost a decade here, I understand how this city could have driven him nuts and broken his heart.

September 3, 2013

The Signifying Life: In Praise of the Outward-Looking Memoir 4

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Memoir at its very best is the start of a conversation. It makes its interest in readers explicit, offering not just a series of life events, but a deliberate suggestion of what it is to be a human being – to experience confusion, despair, hope, joy, and all that happens in between.

August 30, 2013

Chasing the Light: On Not Quitting the Writing Life 5

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What is it that can still seize me, after years of failure, and make me seek to write, to make art? I have no idea. All I know is that I do not have it in me to give up.

August 28, 2013

An Unlikely Speaker: On Stuttering and the Memoir 3

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Writing a vivid book about stuttering, a book that people read in the privacy of their own lives, is only one level of vulnerability. Standing up to speak about that book, while experiencing the sensation of stuttering and bearing witness to all the immediate reactions that evokes, is quite another.

August 28, 2013

These Boots Aren’t Made for Walking 6

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Square-toe, mid-calf, 4-inch all-rubber chunky heels. Red. For the month of August, these have been my writing boots. What: don’t you have a pair of writing boots?