August 26, 2011

‘There It Is’: Vietnam and the Generosities of Fiction 8


If there were no such thing as fiction, we’d have had to invent it, if we ever wanted to make sense out of a thing like the Vietnam War.

August 24, 2011

On Superheroes and Superintendents 2


It seems obvious to say, but wouldn’t we all like that chance to start from issue one, with a whole slew of villains and love interests and story arcs to cover?

August 23, 2011

Shutting the Drawer: What Happens When a Book Doesn’t Sell? 72


The truth is, my novel isn’t selling, and it probably won’t. There, I’ve said it. Eventually, a writer must accept rejection, accept the death of her first true darling, and move on. Can I face that sobering reality? Can I put my first book into the drawer, and shut it?

August 22, 2011

No Place Like Home 5


At the risk of stating the obvious: isn’t it strange, I mean, this thing about being a human being breathing and thinking and sensing and dwelling always, always, in a place?

August 18, 2011

Making Room for Readers 39


It’s a mistake to rarify reading and put books out of reach. It’s a mistake to assume that readers are “mostly born and only a little made.” Because those discoveries in libraries and bookstores — and, yes, on my parents’ shelves, too — are what made me a reader, not some mysterious, bibliogenic accident of birth.

August 10, 2011

Anniversaries, Anesthesia, and Elizabeth Bishop 10


The fixating on being “now exactly at the age” or moment when the anniversary of a terrible thing that happened or didn’t happen that Elizabeth Bishop describes, I know this. The same week I received my copies of the new Bishop volumes edited by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, I took my three-year-old son to the emergency room.

August 3, 2011

Why Do We Care About Literary Awards? 15


Getting worked up about the fact that really interesting, innovative fiction so often gets ignored by awards judges is, when you think about it, a little bit absurd.

August 2, 2011

Why Rent? On Our Lost Pursuit of Property 5


We can try to keep realizing westward, but unfortunately, some things are simply finite. Would that the ownership of property — of land, of moving water — were as simple as what “Why Rent?” ads or political rhetoric about home ownership imply.

July 29, 2011

Following the Moon: Plot and the Novels of Tana French 8


Beyond the world of storytelling, plot is defined as a secret scheme to reach a specific end. Or it’s a parcel of land. Or it means to mark a graph, chart, or map: the plotting shows us what has changed; our ship is headed this way. To a writer (me) interested in (obsessed with?) plot-making, all of these are significant definitions.

July 27, 2011

Scared Straight: Writers and The New Happiness 37


Whereas previous generations of accomplished writers were awash in alcoholism and cigarettes, sexual-romantic openness, spiritual misery, and financial ruin, today’s young writers are more likely to faithfully drink 8-10 glasses of water daily, be married, get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, and have a decent credit score.