Essays

November 9, 2011

De-Romanticizing Rome 6

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Judging by the bookshelves, Rome has been condensed into a mere repetition of themes: what tasty food, passionate people, beautiful art, ancient ruins, and history! Is that all there is to Rome?

October 25, 2011

Celebrating St. Crispin’s Day 8

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We need more literary holidays. For what it’s worth, I want to claim today (October 25) for readers. Who’s with me?

October 24, 2011

The End of the End of the Frontier 3

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Americans don’t really look for Mexico in Mexico — they look for a more perfect America, at once free of materialism and more conducive to it.

October 17, 2011

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Write ‘The Marriage Plot’ 24

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The irony was clear: here I was, cheating on a novel that had once been my mistress!

October 14, 2011

Getting Out: Escaping with Joan Didion 5

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I came home one oppressive afternoon and found two men drunk on Listerine passed out on the front lawn. I saw someone on the bus using needle-nosed pliers to remove his nostril hair. Minneapolis hadn’t changed, but the ugliness had become all I saw of the city.

October 13, 2011

The Gay Question: Death in Venice, By Nightfall, and The Art of Fielding 19

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Is it possible for an otherwise straight man to be struck by a bolt of gay lightning and next scene end up declaring his undying love to a beautiful young Adonis?

October 11, 2011

Bartleby’s Occupation of Wall Street 39

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If Occupy Wall Street has any goal, it should be to have the same effect that great literature has — to unsettle.

October 10, 2011

Bad Bookshops: An Appreciation 12

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As great as it is to be able to choose whatever you want on Amazon, sometimes what you really want is to have no choice at all.

October 6, 2011

What a Wonderful Drag It Is Getting Old: Mona Simpson’s Anywhere but Here 3

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I would never say this explicitly, but I think to myself, dear niece or nephew: I understand how exasperating or sometimes insane your parents can seem, but try to remember that they would do anything for you, that they have lived for you.

October 4, 2011

The Pure Writer’s Heart: Fante, Father, and Son 4

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The calamities of John Fante’s career are well known and threaten to overtake his fiction as the most important element of his life.