Essays

September 1, 2010

Reading and Race: On Slavery in Fiction 12

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As a white reader, I’m simultaneously made to understand the experience of slavery, and I also must wrestle with how I’m implicated in that past.

August 26, 2010

Oral History at the End of the World: World War Z and its Cousins 3

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World War Z is not a shallow book by any means. But World War Z never quite manages the same level of moral pique as The Good War and the now obscure former bestseller Warday, a bleak speculative oral history of America after a nuclear attack.

August 23, 2010

Beauty, Youth, and Their Discontents 1

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Fictional characters enjoy exaggerated attributes, but few have the sort of beauty that marks Julien Sorel, where the beauty is not only essential to his character, elevating his soul, but outside of it, dictating his destiny. If beauty can be distilled from its specific fictional forms, does it have a cogent power of its own in literature?

August 20, 2010

On Coincidence, Love, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being 6

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Death is hidden somewhere in the middle of the book, and it doesn’t mean a thing.

August 19, 2010

The Ballad of David Markson: A Primer 15

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What might you have already read that suggests you’ll like David Markson? Tough call, since, for good or ill, nothing’s like David Markson.

August 17, 2010

Where We Write: The Merits of Making Do 36

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I began to suspect I was too susceptible to the idea of the “writer’s desk” and decided it might be better to do without one. Somewhere along the way, I began to work in libraries. More important, I began to get work done in libraries.

August 13, 2010

The Aira Effect 7

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The effect of all the detail and incident César Aira can offer on such a small canvas is vertiginous, like reading an epic poem etched on a grain of sand.

August 12, 2010

Writing Is My Peppermint-Flavored Heroin 17

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Panic attacks, advance reviews, firearms, squirrels, and chocolate milk: One writer’s diary leading up to the day his debut novel is published. Or: “The Ecstasy and Agony of My First Novel Being Published.”

August 10, 2010

The Way We Used to Walk the Dog 16

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Often, until I am directly confronted with the sight of a girl and her book—a sight outside the purview of my current routines—it can slip my mind that I, too, used to read like that. To love reading like that.

August 4, 2010

A Harbored Notion 10

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It would be a pity should your books sink to the depths in the fuselage belly along with your neatly folded underwear. It could happen.