Essays

November 21, 2012

Thankful for Such Friends 4

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What constitutes friendship? What defines it? Proximity? Duration? Frequency?

November 15, 2012

The March of Progress Is Never Neat: Merle Miller’s On Being Different 1

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If Miller’s book is an argument for dignity and acceptance, it is also an argument against politeness. It is an argument against letting stray homophobic remarks from your liberal friends just go in the interest of keeping the evening pleasant. It is an argument against letting someone change the topic of conversation when they tell you they feel uncomfortable about gay marriage. It’s an argument for demanding the part of the territory to which you are entitled.

November 7, 2012

Double Take: A Momentary Encounter With a Murderer and his Fictional Likeness 2

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One evening a couple of weeks ago, I passed a murderer in the front square of Trinity College Dublin. It was Malcolm MacArthur, a man in his late sixties who spent the last thirty years in prison for killing two strangers in July of 1982. He is arguably the most notorious murderer in Ireland’s notoriously murderous history.

November 5, 2012

Confessions of an Analogian Writing for the Webs 24

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In that moment, I got it — what all this fuss about social networking was about. Give the tools a try, just be yourself; write what you care about. Weird things will start to happen.

November 1, 2012

Bridge Across the Country: On the Literature of the Midwest 24

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For all the Midwest’s evenhandedness, much of it has been embittered by the recession, and the work ethic we’re known for, when without direction, becomes destructive. The literature of this Midwest shows this side of us, the hardened and hungry folk. It forgets, largely, the generous people I know they co-exist with.

October 29, 2012

The Man Who Blew the Dust Off James M. Cain’s Lost Last Novel 1

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“It was like a moment out of Indiana Jones – prying the lid off the sarcophagus, blowing off the dust,” Charles Ardai says. “It was breathtaking. I was thrilled. To find new words from an author you thought would never speak again – it was magical.”

October 25, 2012

Breaking the Barrier: On Race, Gender, and Junot Díaz 24

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While I emphatically agree that gender is a barrier in publishing, taking out our sense of injustice on men of color is barking up the wrong tree. It would make more sense for us to think about how the barriers we face are parallel, and to try working on the unfairness in publishing together.

October 25, 2012

Elegy for a Grey Cat: On Grief, Books, and His Dark Materials 15

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For grief there’s A Year of Magical Thinking, for breakups there’s A Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing, but what could I read when I lost my cat? Cats usually show up in books as witches or set dressing for spinsters. Then I thought of Philip Pullman.

October 23, 2012

The Defeated Write History: Chinua Achebe’s There Was a Country 6

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Over two million Biafrans – primarily civilians and disproportionately children – perished. Biafra is now largely forgotten outside the region, but one of Africa’s best known authors has just published a book which he certainly hopes will bring it back to our collective consciousness.

October 17, 2012

Timing Is Everything: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly 3

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There are few iron facts in the crapshoot of the literary life, but here’s one: In book publishing — no less than in music, war, and sex — timing is everything.