Essays

June 29, 2015

Something You Can Use: The Writer’s Self-Healing Wound 4

by

A psychic wound can be its own healing agent, may itself contain a gift, and may offer a form of unexpected inspiration. Yet how to embrace this elusive not-damage within the wound?

June 25, 2015

Ancient Arts: On Independent Catholic Literature and Edward Mullany’s ‘The Three Sunrises’ 4

by

In the present literary moment, earnest religious belief is a subversive, counter-cultural move. God is not absent, but God seems more ironic metaphor than serious matter.

June 22, 2015

Pants on Fire: The Genre That Cannot Be Named 2

by

Inventing one composite kid from two could make the story stronger. Certainly it would make writing the story easier for me. I come in part from cheating stock — thieves, adulterers, at least two murderers, as far as I know. I was curious: Could I be a cheater, or, more precisely, a compositor, too?

June 11, 2015

Hapworth Revisited: On J.D. Salinger’s Most Inscrutable Short Story 4

by

The story remains something of a baffling enigma: branded as unreadable by critics, and never republished, only the most dedicated Salinger devotees bother to track it down and slog through it.

June 10, 2015

A Sense of Levitation: On Reading W.G. Sebald 1

by

I am resisting the temptation to read Sebald’s books all the way through, pausing only to eat, sleep, and visit the toilet.

June 8, 2015

The Audacity of Prose 54

by

Writers should realize that the novels that are remembered, that become monuments, would in fact be those which err on the part of audacious prose, which occasionally allow excess rather than those which package a story — no matter how affecting — in inadequate prose.

June 3, 2015

The Mysterious Edges: On Jami Attenberg and ‘Saint Mazie’ 5

by

How do writers get better at telling stories? Attenberg has some theories. First: getting older. She wrote The Middlesteins in her late-30s, with three books to her name and some perspective on the person who wrote them.

June 2, 2015

Lines of Light and Dark: On Mowing and Writing 4

by

The weekly ritual of mowing, of men and women walking their property like mechanical monks, is fodder for literature.

June 1, 2015

Game Six: On the Sport of Writing 3

by

Can every writer be a Nicholson Baker? Can every athlete be an Isiah Thomas? I don’t know. But what I can say is that in both the athletic and literary worlds, interested parties find themselves asking whether the ratio for a successful career skews more toward aptitude or labor.

May 28, 2015

Mourning, Meaning, and Moving On: Life After ‘Mad Men’ 4

by

We know that we became absorbed, that we experienced great pleasure in watching, and that we couldn’t wait for each new season to begin. We know, or feel at least, that we have participated in something significant, a cultural moment. But what I want to know now, or try to know, is this: Is it art?