Essays

October 4, 2012

Susanna Moore, Cheryl Strayed, and the Place Where the Writers Work 8

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What matters is good writing, what matters is that there are people who love books enough to press them into your hands in far-off cities. We are here for the books, but I think it’s easy to get distracted by our longing for success and forget this.

October 3, 2012

My Father’s Guitar and Other Imaginary Things 2

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I pulled up and looked at the guitar, and I thought, Hey, that’s not my father’s guitar! It was nothing but a cheap blonde Alvarez! I mean, if I could dream a guitar up out of thin air, what else, over the years, had I imagined?

October 2, 2012

Shakespeare as God 8

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For me, reading Shakespeare is like going to church, except that in place of a God I could never and wouldn’t want to believe in, I “commune,” so to speak, with a mind that seems to comprehend all others and enforces no doctrinal obedience. This community of believers embraces anyone who has ever seen, heard, or read a word of Shakespeare’s and been moved to wonder and reflection. That’s what I call a catholic church.

October 1, 2012

Thirty Years of Re-Reading Lucky Jim 10

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Thirty-plus years after reading Lucky Jim for the first time, I don’t remember exactly what I thought of the book, why it struck the chord it did with me, why it would turn out to be one of the most important books in my life.

September 28, 2012

I Want to Be a Book: On Becoming A Writer 16

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My father is in Liberia, where there’s a civil war, and he’s writing about it for the newspapers. He loves me, he misses me, he’s sorry he and my mother are no longer together. He hopes I still read as much as I did.

September 27, 2012

The New Wave: On the State of Indian Fiction in America 3

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For all the merits of these books, the question remains: is this literary boomlet an anomaly, a coincidence, or a harbinger?

September 25, 2012

The Shoddy Afterlife of a Reality Hunger Appropriation 7

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Let’s review: David Shields extracts Paul Elie’s quote from a larger narrative, changes the words, and purges any reference to the ideas’ original source: Walker Percy. Then Gideon Lewis-Kraus quotes Shields’s misquote of Elie, contradicts his misquote, and characterizes what he wrongly alleges Elie having written as a “shoddy lament.” But no citations; this is art.

September 24, 2012

The Feminist Hate-Read Book Club Reads Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A New Biography 27

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A shady cabal of feminist writers conducted a week-long roundtable discussion of Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A New Biography. The book was troubling, bewildering, and often infuriating. There was a prize for the writer who worked the most puns into her review.

September 21, 2012

We’re All Just Lying Machines: A Conversation about Gillian Flynn 6

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What I love most about Gone Girl was the way Flynn made me think about how character and identity are constructed. She made me like and then dislike a character, dislike and then like another one, and then dislike the whole lot of them, the idea of identity dissolving and reappearing at every moment.

September 19, 2012

Salman, The Messenger 6

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Wherever they burn books, they also burn people in the end.