Essays

July 10, 2012

Who Wrote the Great New Jersey Novel? 27

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They try to form a band, they do drugs, they light themselves on fire, they fall off roofs. It’s all so New Jersey.

July 3, 2012

A Travel Guide to American Hypocrisy 1

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I should confess that I’m not a habitual attendee of historic re-enactment events. I’d only wedged myself into the crowd behind Independence Hall that day because Domestic Manners of the Americans had gotten into my head.

June 29, 2012

The High Line: New York’s Monument to Gentrification 29

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The High Line is the distressed skinny jeans of public parks, the gourmet taco truck of urban tourist attractions.

June 26, 2012

At Last, Harley Earl Gets Some Respect 1

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We need to talk about Harley Earl. And about how he changed my life and the lives of millions of Americans who have never heard his name.

June 20, 2012

At Night, All Books Are Bright 12

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There are two types of people: owls and larks. I’ve always wanted to be an owl myself. To say “I just spent the day writing” makes it sound like a mind numbing nine-to-five job. But to say “I spent the night writing” elevates the activity to something compelling and secret.

June 19, 2012

On Loneliness: Art, Life, and Fucking Human Beings 15

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There are days when it seems to me that what it is to be a fucking human being is to be lonely; to be in this state of deep sadness and estrangement, and to know that there is something terribly wrong about this loneliness on the one hand, and on the other (in knowing the wrongness utterly), something also potentially beautiful.

June 14, 2012

Mario Vargas Llosa and the Heart of Roger Casement 2

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Vargas Llosa leaves the question, which kept many Conrad and Casement biographers busy, unanswered. Being both outsiders of the British establishment, how could these two men have differed so dramatically at the time of Casement’s trial in 1916?

June 13, 2012

Conversations With Myself: An Author’s Guide to Writing Reading Group Guides 4

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The best thing about interviewing yourself is that there are no “gotcha” questions. The second-best thing is that you can be certain the interviewer read the book.

June 7, 2012

Failing Better: Ian Hamilton and The New Review 5

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Hounded by debt collectors, pressured by printer’s fees, fearful that the Arts Council would come through on its threats to pull their funding, Hamilton was ever under intense strain. “He was the only person I knew who was sued by his own solicitor,” Christopher Hitchens recalled.

June 5, 2012

The Maturation of Etgar Keret 2

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Suddenly, a Knock on the Door encapsulates the tenor of much of the best of Keret’s short fiction: The striving to chronicle the human situation, to get beyond the partisan politics, anger, and fear of the contemporary Middle East even while struggling (knowingly struggling) within those constraints.