Essays

May 14, 2010

The Hipsterati 15

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“It was my dad’s 60th birthday. We went out to dinner in Brooklyn and he looked around and said, ‘Who are these people?’ I told him they were hipsters. He asked if that was like hippies. No, I told him, the short answer is that they’re grown-up babies.”

May 12, 2010

Elegy for a Stillborn Story 9

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If we’re doing it right, the story will change us. It will die in our arms, and we will press our lips to it and breathe an idea back in. We will stand among hundreds of our stories gathered in piles at our feet, and we won’t know if we’re in a cemetery or a nursery.

May 10, 2010

I Heart Chekhov; Better Than Booze or Smokes 9

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Praising Chekhov, I realize, is a little like rooting for the Yankees… Yet it’s difficult, and arguably fatal, to teach Chekhov’s “style.”

May 7, 2010

Writing Food, Writing Life 3

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Writing in itself is a sort of cooking, a combining of ingredients: sometimes the finished product turns all corners of our tastes, filling us with joy, other times, we’re not so lucky.

May 4, 2010

The Scientifically Surreal, Eerily Erotic Novels of Kobo Abe 4

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Abe’s detractors mutter “Something’s very wrong here — but what?” Abe’s fans mutter “Something’s very right here — but what?”

April 30, 2010

Legacy of a Photo 3

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What is the legacy of a famous photo from the Vietnam War, or of any of the recent wartime pictures of Afghanistan or Iraq? Do they have a strong enough impact to raise a call to action? Or has society become desensitized, avoiding that which causes moral discomfort, or, more chillingly, have we become aesthetic consumers of such imagery?

April 29, 2010

Are Picture Books Leading Our Children Astray? 18

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It’s now widely believed that Outbreak, the 1995 Dustin Hoffman Ebola thriller, was at least partially inspired by Caps For Sale.

April 23, 2010

Chasing the Whale: Banksy, Obsession, and the Sea 6

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At first blush, connecting contemporary art to the heyday of seafaring might seem incongruous, but sailors were the eyes of the world for landlubbers, returning home with tales of what mystical, depraved and wondrous sites and cultures existed just beyond the horizon.

April 22, 2010

The Baby-Sitters Club is Back, Baby! 9

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Given the current YA vampire and fantasy craze, I wonder if novels staked in the normal can find the ardent following they did with my generation. Will young readers with an acutely developed taste for bloody bites and wizard wands be captivated by the story of industrious teenagers facing the universal travails of growing up?

April 21, 2010

A Different Species: A Chinese American Writer in China 6

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Amid the modern Chinese version of capitalism, with its frenzied self-invention and incessant deal-making, my pursuit seemed inexplicable. Some people demanded to know how much money I would earn off my book. Others wondered why anyone in America would care to read about my characters. A few concluded that I must be a spy.