Essays

March 11, 2015

When Students Workshop Their Teacher 2

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I recognize that some teachers will hesitate to cede power to their students in this manner. But if I am willing to let a classroom of teenagers read, edit, and critique my work, then undergraduate and graduate instructors might consider it.

March 11, 2015

At The Blue Dolphin: On Mothers and Sons 5

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I wanted to be the mother, but I did not have the least idea of how to do that. This is the love I have, I told him. It feels big and powerful, but there’s no way to know if it, if I, will be worthy of you.

March 9, 2015

AudioVox: On Nicholson Baker, Audiobooks, and Reading 1

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I’m not averse to the idea of female ejaculation, and so when I heard female ejaculation mentioned quite loudly in an otherwise quiet room I looked up with the sort of expression that probably said something like, “Why, sure, I have a healthy curiosity about female ejaculation, so please, by all means, if you have something new to share on the subject, proceed!”

March 5, 2015

Primate Lit: On Suspension of Disbelief and Monkeys in Fiction 4

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What all of the stories in this category have in common, I would argue, is that their very existence depends on their monkeys. Sure, they could have been written without them, but without the primate-primate connection between monkey and human, these stories wouldn’t be the same at all.

March 4, 2015

An Infinite Maze: On the Many Voices of the Dublin Murder Squad 2

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These novels generate vertiginous thrills as they dramatize the difficulties of understanding ourselves, other people, and the world at large.

March 3, 2015

Fixed by Camel: On Gender, Books, and Children 0

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Imposing my version of gender, my preference for skepticism and nonconformity, isn’t any more appropriate or healthy than forcing him into army fatigue onesies or calling him “Daddy’s Big Guy.”

February 23, 2015

The Art of the Final Sentence 14

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For writers, the last sentences aren’t about reader responsibility at all — it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to stop worrying about what comes next, because nothing does. No more keeping the reader interested, no more wariness over giving the game away. This is the best time for a writer to get real, to depict reality as they see it, without compromises, without fear.

February 18, 2015

The Art of the Chapter 6

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You want to know how weird and deep my rabbit hole goes? I’ve developed what I’ll call an eccentricity about chapters.

February 17, 2015

Forty for 40: A Literary Reader for Lent 5

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Lent is the most literary season of the liturgical year. The Lenten narrative is marked by violence, suffering, anticipation, and finally, joy. Here is a literary reader for Lent: 40 stories, poems, essays, and books for the 40 days of this season.

February 10, 2015

Let Us Now Praise Authors, Artists, Dilettantes, and Drunks 2

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I ask myself, in what Kyoto bar might a fellow literary pilgrim relate to me the praiseworthy sexual longevity of one of Japan’s great dilettante artists?