February 19, 2014

Cooking with Hemingway 11


I couldn’t question Hemingway’s mastery of prose. His pancake recipe inspired less confidence.

February 18, 2014

The Author Sends Her Regrets: J.K. Rowling and Other Writers with Second Thoughts 4


Is a writer allowed to have regrets? Certainly. Is she allowed to air them publicly? I mean, yeah, it’s a free internet, why not? Do I want to hear a single additional word about the world of Harry Potter from J. K. Rowling that is not in the form of another book? No, not particularly.

February 14, 2014

Homo Sovieticus: Russians on Russianness 0


But does a universal, mystical “Russian Soul” really exist? Did it ever? Is it the only explanation for what makes Russians Russian? For this crop of authors, the answer is nyet.

February 13, 2014

Wordsmith: The Beguiling Gifts of Ali Smith 4


This kind of gymnastic use of a single word is Smith’s specialty, but instead of simply engaging in verbal pyrotechnics for their own sake, Smith wants to understand the dynamic between language and our inner lives.

February 12, 2014

Martin Gardner: The Most Interesting Man in the World 8


You may think that the most interesting man in the world has a scraggly gray beard, drinks Mexican beer, and hangs out with women half his age. But you’re dead wrong. I discovered the real deal. His name was Martin Gardner.

February 10, 2014

The Immortal Gaviero: Alvaro Mutis’ Maqroll Adventures 2


I can think of no better way to honor both the man and his singular hero possessed of an “incurable wanderlust” and a “vocation for defeat” than by quoting the latter’s bathroom graffiti, bits of wisdom written by the Gaviero in his seclusion.

February 6, 2014

On the Origin of Novels? Encountering Literary Darwinism 24


Accusations of scientism and reductionism may or may not be warranted, but the fact remains: the most fundamental discovery in all of biological science remains more-or-less completely un-talked about in English seminars.

February 5, 2014

The Fictional Lives of High School Teachers 8


In America, teachers are either seen as angelic or caustic, saviors or sycophants. These stereotypes enable politicians to convince the public to support the latest education fad or slash needed budgets. The reality is we teach because we love to help kids, and we think literature is a way to examine and understand our complex lives.

January 31, 2014

Beethoven Got There First 6


The Grand Experimenter, it turns out, was Ludwig van Beethoven. This musical colossus, completely deaf, his personal affairs in chaos, perennially behind in his finances, unwell and unloved, reworked the string quartet in ways that continue to bewilder and astonish.

January 30, 2014

Fangirl 5


This is the story of one person in one fandom, but it’s likely got hints of your story, too, if you’ve ever been involved in this sort of thing. I’d hope that it resonates if you’ve ever really loved something that you haven’t created — the I’d-kill-for-you kind of love of a work of art that inspires others to say things like, “Whoa, whoa, slow down, it’s just a book.”