Essays

June 21, 2011

On Bad Blurbs and the Heavy Lightness of Yates’s The Easter Parade 11

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The blurby back-cover declarations struck me as so off-pitch, that they in fact helped me to clarify for myself just what I think The Easter Parade is, and isn’t.

June 17, 2011

Philip K. Dick and the Pleasures of Unquotable Prose 16

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Dick’s novels feel like labor, as though they are tabulating the results of some desperate experiment.

June 17, 2011

Cliffhanger: On Extreme Survival Books 7

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This plotline rarely changes; the details are grisly, the scenarios harrowing. Yet we can’t get enough of such stories.

June 15, 2011

On Not Going Out of the House: Thoughts About Plotlessness 14

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If life keeps “flowing, always flowing, smashing everything” as it rushes toward the ocean of death, the desire to scramble for the bank and sit the whole thing out on dry land is understandable.

June 13, 2011

Lighting the Way: On Mentoring and Being Mentored 3

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I am thankful for each of my mentors and what they’ve offered me at different points in my life as a writer. I don’t want to imagine what I might not have attempted, creatively and professionally, were it not for their support and enthusiasm, their benevolent shadows.

June 9, 2011

Daughter of California 11

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Pitch dirt onto a parent’s dead body and in that second understand that bits of dirt just became as much part of the parent as any other bit you might hold onto: a snapshot, a clock with bent hands, shoes still bearing the imprint of feet, ties scented with stale aspiration.

June 8, 2011

Consequential Literature and Petty Theft 11

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The first time was nerve-racking, a rush, but by the third book I was already settling in.  My browsing time shortened.  My forehead didn’t sweat.  I feared getting caught not because I was committing a punishable crime, but because I was committing a strange and possibly subversive act, because getting caught would force me to explain, to divulge my secret self.

June 7, 2011

Solving for X: Malcolm X and White Readers 4

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If the “angriest black man in America” no longer hates you, Malcolm X’s story seems to tell white people, then maybe you’re not all bad.

June 6, 2011

Pat’s Journals 7

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Soon after I started dating my future husband, I discovered that his father had written unpublished journals, named for his sons and his first grandson. In them, I learned the truth is complicated and nebulous and open to interpretation.

June 3, 2011

Geoff Dyer, Gate-Crasher and Dragonfly 4

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It was as though I’d been drawn to the Phillips de Pury auction house to visually complete the circuit of learning begun by Dyer’s revelatory writings.  Which is not to say I wound up agreeing with everything Dyer had to say. Far from it.