May 12, 2011

The Indigenous American Berserk 19


Whenever there are bright lights, clusters of cameras and microphones, spin doctors and handlers, packs of hungry rivals with notebooks, the writer’s chances of getting something genuine, or even merely unique, shrink monstrously.  I experienced this so many times that it is one of the few things I absolutely know to be true.

May 11, 2011

‘Was Guilt Innocent?’ The Books of Harry Mulisch 7


The Assault, probably Harry Mulisch’s most well known work, is to my mind the best account ever written of being a non-Jew in an occupied Nazi territory.

April 29, 2011

Pitons in the Monolith: Jonathan Franzen’s Despair and the Millennials’ Dream 19


The crisis Franzen described 15 years ago this month would seem doubly urgent for today’s young writers, yet twentysomethings are entering the literary arena in droves. The question’s not “Why Bother?” but “What gives?”

April 28, 2011

Our Growing Higher Ed Crisis: Making Myths In the Basement of the Ivory Tower 22


Professor X knows first-hand that if you refuse to keep score, if you don’t set standards, if you promote students simply for trying, you will produce mediocrity, or worse. But don’t just take his word for it.

April 27, 2011

Confluence of Pleasures: On Reading and Tuna Fish 15


Proust’s madeleine would have made more sense to me had Proust, upon discovering the power of the cookie, obtained a huge box and eaten them while reading all seven Chronicles of Narnia.

April 25, 2011

The Quotable Babur 5


He was a tactician, poet, zoologist, melon enthusiast, Muslim, and badass. He was also the author of the Baburnama, an autobiography unprecedented in its milieu.

April 22, 2011

Smirking Obsessives: a Primer on the Novels of Lynne Tillman 4


The more detailed your map of the Tillmanverse, the richer you’ll find your own wanderings through it.

April 21, 2011

Comfort Food: Writing the Emotions in What We Eat 8


I came to understand the act of preparing and consuming meals as a way of expressing love. These sad but perfect little dinners formed the basis of how I would understand and relate to food.

April 20, 2011

Going Native: Writing Place in Los Angeles 32


The distance any of us non-New York writers have from New York is frustrating, but also valuable. There’s an option to retreat from the noise–or, okay, the music–that I don’t think a writer in, say, Brooklyn has. This distance has benefited me for the last four years, as I write and write, without looking up, or around, me.

April 19, 2011

How Avant Is It? Zadie Smith, Tom McCarthy, and the Novel’s Way Forward 25


Huge claims have been made on behalf of the novelist Tom McCarthy. But what do they actually tell us about “the future of fiction?”