Essays

February 25, 2013

The Debased Art of Coining Words: A Glossary 8

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It’s hard to say if there was ever a golden age for word coinages. Maybe Elizabethan England – when news items were tidings, a thief was a cutpurse, and a prostitute was a jade or a bawd. While it may be impossible to pinpoint a golden age, I’m convinced we’re living in an age when the art of coining words has been criminally debased.

February 22, 2013

Funny, You Don’t Look Like Angela Davis 4

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My happiest discovery, however, has been to realize that when I’m in the process of writing fiction, I have no name. Only my characters exist.

February 20, 2013

Detroit Fiction: On Rightsizing American Literature 35

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Literature could not find itself in a better place from which to escape the confining and picayune interiority of the last half-century.

February 20, 2013

‘God, Let Me Be Loved’: The Tragedy of Truman Capote 11

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If Capote the writer has been eclipsed in the public mind by Capote the Hollywood movie character, no one is more to blame than Capote himself. Capote, in his way, was a reality TV star before there was reality TV, always on stage, gossiping and backstabbing, forever plotting to push other people off the island.

February 19, 2013

Occupy Parnassus!: Kirill Medvedev’s ‘It’s No Good’ 1

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Occupy Wall Street may have had real consequences for our national economic debate, but its vision of a just society again seems hazy, as if glimpsed from the far side of sleep. We need some outside force to jolt us back awake. Kirill Medvedev, meet your audience.

February 15, 2013

A Multiplicity of Voices: On the Polyphonic Novel 28

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With each foray onto the Internet, each ping and clang, we are searching for meaning in a haystack of data, balancing perspectives, trying to find reason in a cacophony of opinion. Is it any wonder we are drawn to fiction that reflects this new way of being, to a form that’s uniquely suited to our fragmented and globalized century?

February 7, 2013

Can Writers Retire? Let Us Count the Ways 34

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Salinger never published another word, though in a rare interview in 1974 he revealed that while he had retired from publishing, he had not stopped writing. “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing,” Salinger said. “It’s peaceful. Still. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.”

February 1, 2013

Peeling Back the Oprah Seal: Ayana Mathis’s Twelve Tribes of Hattie 8

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It is high time defenders of American literary fiction cut Oprah Winfrey a break.

January 28, 2013

Bad Metaphors, Bad Tech 12

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It’s not always technical walls that stop change in its tracks. Sometimes, innovation is limited by language itself. When metaphors start to die, or when we forget that they’re only tools, they can become some of the most powerful forces against innovation.

January 18, 2013

Letters in the Wind: A Writer’s Evolution 7

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I realized that my writing at age 28 was a lot like my golf game as a teenager: a single gust of wind and it went to Hell.