Essays

July 5, 2010

Between the Pages 10

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Being a reader is like playing tricks with time. You turn the page of the fictional story while an hour of your own passes. The characters breathe, laugh and cry, and so do you. When you finish their tale, you close the book and set it aside, dreaming of their ever-after, while stepping out into yours.

July 2, 2010

Oil Plumes and White Noise: On Rereading DeLillo 1

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We are in a situation similar to the one Delillo lays out in White Noise: things are bad, danger is lurking, but we don’t know its full extent. Our exposure has been consummate, and fatal for the health and economic stability of many, but the final tally is not yet in.

June 23, 2010

The City & The City & The City 13

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I read China Miéville’s The City & The City recently. I’ve been thinking lately about the ways in which our cities are layered, the way different versions of a given city exist as shadows of one another, and coming across a story wherein the layering was so explicit delighted me.

June 22, 2010

The Elusive Omniscient 10

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What seems key about the novel is that what we think of as a historical evolution—or a descent from a unified to a fragmented perspective—isn’t an evolution at all. In fact, the novel has always been insecure. It’s just that the manifestation of its insecurity has changed over time.

June 21, 2010

My Grandmother, the Chinese Censor 14

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My grandmother is ninety-two and the cherished matriarch of my family, but even before she learned that my novel was set in her homeland, before she knew anything about it other than that I was writing it, calling her had become an ordeal. Her idea of conversation is what most consider interrogation.

June 11, 2010

The Happy Ghost 12

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Ghostwriting used to be book publishing’s dirty little secret. No more. Today a growing cadre of writers are discovering that checking their ego at the door and telling someone else’s story can make them very successful, very rich and, in at least one case, as close to happy as most writers will ever get.

June 9, 2010

The Trick of It 4

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Childhood and adolescence are the great gateway experiences to adulthood, middle-age, the so-called golden years, and then decrepitude. All that, waiting to be unpacked. By that time it’s too big for a backpack. We’re talking about a whole civilization you’ve buried in your backyard.

June 8, 2010

Climbing a Tree, Uncovering a Duck: Writers on Writing 13

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I’ve always sought out writing metaphors and similes because they articulate the strangeness, joy, and frustrations of such an abstract activity, one that requires you to dream and to focus at the same time.

June 4, 2010

The Savage Detectives Machete 9

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Traditionally Spanish publishers stuff their books with introductions and notes. You have to skip the fifty pages of critical essays to read the twelve pages of poems. Although I don’t think this novel needs all of that, an answer key, a cheat sheet, what in Argentina they call a machete, might do.

June 1, 2010

Linguistic Revenge: An Alexander Theroux Primer 11

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Defending his prose, Theroux once likened it to “a Victorian attic.” He delivers more inner life than outer, more desire for vengeance than for anything else, and more sheer stuff per page — stuff you don’t expect — than any other novelist.