Essays Archives - Page 4 of 96 - The Millions

August 10, 2016

Dear Any Soldier: Vonnegut during Wartime 6


I learned about fiction from a box of Kurt Vonnegut books, Operation Desert Storm, 1991. The scene was sand, and tent, and swelter, and blast concussion, and a small, unopened box.

August 9, 2016

Teenage Dream: Life on the Pageant Circuit 0


We learned how to wave (one from the elbow, two from the wrist). How to eat soup (dip the spoon away from you, it looks less greedy). How to sit down (edge of the chair, legs angled to one side, ankles uncrossed). How to close a door (behind you, without turning around to look).

August 8, 2016

Still Searching: Poets on God 1


How do we discern a writer’s religious beliefs? When does the private belief inform the public art?

August 5, 2016

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Door-to-Door Activism 0


People are selfish. People like barbecue. Cat sweaters are underrated. That’s pretty much all you needed to know to survive this job. 

August 3, 2016

Aeneas, My Grandfather, and the Memory of War 1


What Aeneas holds out to his men and to himself is the possibility that just maybe they will have a life like my grandfather’s — the one thing that could make such suffering bearable. A life filled with family that grows across generations, defined not by the pain of the past but by the peace of mind that, with enormous luck, comes once the intensity of war’s fury has receded.

August 1, 2016

“One More for the River”: On Writing Challenges 1


Mine has been a life full of writing projects that are large and grandiose in design, even if they aren’t ultimately grand in execution.

July 29, 2016

No Miss Havishams Here: On Emma Rathbone’s ‘Losing It’ 0


Literary virgins with any agency are few and far between.

July 28, 2016

How to Write a Novel 23


Planners certainly do not and cannot plan everything, and even the incorrigibly spontaneous no doubt fall into certain involuntary spasms of planning.

July 28, 2016

Screenwriting 101: What Fiction Writers Learn from Star Wars 5


Before my students begin to learn screenplay format, I first ask them to consider their film’s major dramatic question, or MDQ. In screenwriting, the MDQ is a yes-or-no question that is answered by the climax. For instance, in the 1977 classic Star Wars: A New Hope, the MDQ would be, ‘Will Luke blow up the Death Star?”’

July 27, 2016

Literary Beatdowns: or, Excerpts from Smollett’s ‘Critical Review’ 2


This was a hard-nosed, hard-knuckled era — in life, in literature, and especially in literary criticism.