July 23, 2015

You’ll Never Walk Alone: On Traveling the World with Books 2


A man in a beach hut on the island of Ko Chang gave me his copy of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist in exchange for a piece of cake wrapped in foil and two lukewarm Chang beers.

July 22, 2015

America, Meet the Real Atticus Finch 4


Whatever its true provenance, Go Set a Watchman, despite some deft prose and sharp dialogue, fails as a work of art in every way except as a corrective to the standard sentimental reading of Atticus Finch.

July 16, 2015

Dispatches From the Content Factory: On the Rise and Fall of the New Creative Class 25


We were all replaceable and we knew it. Behind us stood an army of graduates with too much student debt and parents asking about the utility of their degree in the humanities.

July 15, 2015

The Fantastically Normal Life of a Writer 2


After the beast has submitted to my will and I have tended to my wounds, I check a few news sites, play some more music, and begin the work at hand.

July 14, 2015

Chris Christie: New Jersey’s Chimera 4


Chris Christie is the prototypical politician. His every move and utterance is finely calibrated. His outbursts — telling a Hurricane Sandy activist to “sit down and shut up” or calling a former Navy SEAL an “idiot” — are not the slip-ups of an amateur; they are the myth-making of an intelligent, ambitious man.

July 9, 2015

Outlawed Nobleman: Oscar Wilde’s Trial by Fiction 0


‘There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book,’ Wilde wrote in Dorian Gray’s introduction, and the fact that it has survived his moral crucifixion as well as his sainthood is proof that the claim might be true. Think what we will of the man, the book is luminous, terrifying, wonderful.

July 8, 2015

There Is No Map for Grief: On the Work of Art 5


When my daughter died in the belly world of me, I became a writer — so that all the words that cannot name grief, all the words threatening to erupt from my belly and uterus did not explode up and through my skull and face and shatter the very world and sky.

July 7, 2015

Fear of Flying: On Why My Novel Is Not Available at Airport Bookstores 1


Plane bombing! I could be arrested for saying those words here.

July 1, 2015

The Manliness of Joan Didion 1


Think of the ways we talk about manliness: as making necessary sacrifices, doing what needs to be done, choosing the ugly truth over the pretty lie. In all of those definitions, we’re still just talking about being good, brave, responsible. And if that’s what we mean by manliness, then we have to acknowledge the fact that women are now — and always have been — as good at it as men are. Which, in turn, means that men can, and ought to, learn manliness from women.

June 30, 2015

Two Lives: On Hanya Yanagihara and Atticus Lish 7


In Yanagihara’s novel, squalor and degradation are the ruinous individual exception in a world of summer houses and talent and hard work that gets you somewhere; in Lish’s, they are the baseline condition of the life we have made on our planet.