June 11, 2015

Hapworth Revisited: On J.D. Salinger’s Most Inscrutable Short Story 4


The story remains something of a baffling enigma: branded as unreadable by critics, and never republished, only the most dedicated Salinger devotees bother to track it down and slog through it.

June 10, 2015

A Sense of Levitation: On Reading W.G. Sebald 1


I am resisting the temptation to read Sebald’s books all the way through, pausing only to eat, sleep, and visit the toilet.

June 8, 2015

The Audacity of Prose 54


Writers should realize that the novels that are remembered, that become monuments, would in fact be those which err on the part of audacious prose, which occasionally allow excess rather than those which package a story — no matter how affecting — in inadequate prose.

June 3, 2015

The Mysterious Edges: On Jami Attenberg and ‘Saint Mazie’ 5


How do writers get better at telling stories? Attenberg has some theories. First: getting older. She wrote The Middlesteins in her late-30s, with three books to her name and some perspective on the person who wrote them.

June 2, 2015

Lines of Light and Dark: On Mowing and Writing 4


The weekly ritual of mowing, of men and women walking their property like mechanical monks, is fodder for literature.

June 1, 2015

Game Six: On the Sport of Writing 3


Can every writer be a Nicholson Baker? Can every athlete be an Isiah Thomas? I don’t know. But what I can say is that in both the athletic and literary worlds, interested parties find themselves asking whether the ratio for a successful career skews more toward aptitude or labor.

May 28, 2015

Mourning, Meaning, and Moving On: Life After ‘Mad Men’ 4


We know that we became absorbed, that we experienced great pleasure in watching, and that we couldn’t wait for each new season to begin. We know, or feel at least, that we have participated in something significant, a cultural moment. But what I want to know now, or try to know, is this: Is it art?

May 27, 2015

Let Me Think About It: On Recommending Books 15


“Got any good books to recommend?” For me, the equivalent of a politician’s “gotcha” question.

May 26, 2015

Floridapocalypse: The End of the Sunshine State 4


Some of the most exciting works in the canon of “Floridapocalyptic” writing are not necessarily warnings about natural disasters and tropical storms. The four works below are more imaginative takes on the state’s doom, each offering a glimpse into yet another way that night could fall on the Sunshine State.

May 21, 2015

Sheep Lit: On Writing (and Reading) About the Lives of Shepherds 1


Writing about sheep is a thread that twists through 20th-century explorations of the British landscape, and one that I have become eager to unravel.