Essays

March 6, 2013

Hot Milk Sponge Cake: On the Stories Recipes Remember 4

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Recipes themselves appeal to me because they are small and finite: little works. You set yourself a goal, pursue and finish it, it doesn’t take very long. That’s the opposite of what I spend my time doing. The longest, most complicated recipe I ever made took me a day. A novel takes years.

March 4, 2013

God-born Devil’s S**t: Unleashing the Essence of Self-Help Books in Three Simple Steps 4

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Christian self-help is a sub-genre so ubiquitous that when I entered a Christian bookstore and asked for the self-help section, one employee looked at me quizzically and said, “Well, that’s pretty much everything in here, unless you’re looking for a Bible.”

March 1, 2013

Writing with a Burning Quill: On Pakistani Fiction 2

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Pakistani fiction writers are working at making sense of Pakistan, with subtlety, nuance, and colorful tales far beyond the reach of the foreign correspondent.

February 26, 2013

Collision Courses and Castration Anxiety: Rereading John Irving 10

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I wondered if I was just too old for John Irving. Or maybe I’d been getting my nineteenth-century novel fix from soapy serials like Mad Men and Downton Abbey. Or maybe John Irving’s books just weren’t as good as they used to be. I decided to find out.

February 25, 2013

The Debased Art of Coining Words: A Glossary 8

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It’s hard to say if there was ever a golden age for word coinages. Maybe Elizabethan England – when news items were tidings, a thief was a cutpurse, and a prostitute was a jade or a bawd. While it may be impossible to pinpoint a golden age, I’m convinced we’re living in an age when the art of coining words has been criminally debased.

February 22, 2013

Funny, You Don’t Look Like Angela Davis 5

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My happiest discovery, however, has been to realize that when I’m in the process of writing fiction, I have no name. Only my characters exist.

February 20, 2013

Detroit Fiction: On Rightsizing American Literature 35

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Literature could not find itself in a better place from which to escape the confining and picayune interiority of the last half-century.

February 20, 2013

‘God, Let Me Be Loved': The Tragedy of Truman Capote 12

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If Capote the writer has been eclipsed in the public mind by Capote the Hollywood movie character, no one is more to blame than Capote himself. Capote, in his way, was a reality TV star before there was reality TV, always on stage, gossiping and backstabbing, forever plotting to push other people off the island.

February 19, 2013

Occupy Parnassus!: Kirill Medvedev’s ‘It’s No Good’ 1

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Occupy Wall Street may have had real consequences for our national economic debate, but its vision of a just society again seems hazy, as if glimpsed from the far side of sleep. We need some outside force to jolt us back awake. Kirill Medvedev, meet your audience.

February 15, 2013

A Multiplicity of Voices: On the Polyphonic Novel 28

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With each foray onto the Internet, each ping and clang, we are searching for meaning in a haystack of data, balancing perspectives, trying to find reason in a cacophony of opinion. Is it any wonder we are drawn to fiction that reflects this new way of being, to a form that’s uniquely suited to our fragmented and globalized century?