Essays Archives - Page 2 of 94 - The Millions

August 8, 2016

Still Searching: Poets on God 1

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How do we discern a writer’s religious beliefs? When does the private belief inform the public art?

August 5, 2016

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Door-to-Door Activism 0

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People are selfish. People like barbecue. Cat sweaters are underrated. That’s pretty much all you needed to know to survive this job. 

August 3, 2016

Aeneas, My Grandfather, and the Memory of War 1

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What Aeneas holds out to his men and to himself is the possibility that just maybe they will have a life like my grandfather’s — the one thing that could make such suffering bearable. A life filled with family that grows across generations, defined not by the pain of the past but by the peace of mind that, with enormous luck, comes once the intensity of war’s fury has receded.

August 1, 2016

“One More for the River”: On Writing Challenges 1

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Mine has been a life full of writing projects that are large and grandiose in design, even if they aren’t ultimately grand in execution.

July 29, 2016

No Miss Havishams Here: On Emma Rathbone’s ‘Losing It’ 0

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Literary virgins with any agency are few and far between.

July 28, 2016

How to Write a Novel 22

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Planners certainly do not and cannot plan everything, and even the incorrigibly spontaneous no doubt fall into certain involuntary spasms of planning.

July 28, 2016

Screenwriting 101: What Fiction Writers Learn from Star Wars 5

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Before my students begin to learn screenplay format, I first ask them to consider their film’s major dramatic question, or MDQ. In screenwriting, the MDQ is a yes-or-no question that is answered by the climax. For instance, in the 1977 classic Star Wars: A New Hope, the MDQ would be, ‘Will Luke blow up the Death Star?”’

July 27, 2016

Literary Beatdowns: or, Excerpts from Smollett’s ‘Critical Review’ 2

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This was a hard-nosed, hard-knuckled era — in life, in literature, and especially in literary criticism.

July 27, 2016

The Writer is Not Here: On Nihilism and the Writing Life 5

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Just as writing may induce multifarious forms of anxiety, the right words are also a middle finger to the dying of the light.

July 26, 2016

50 Reasons Why You Should Read Joy Williams 1

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I have read it twice now and taken photographs of single pages and recited them as prayers, because prayers should be strange, and they should often sting.