Essays Archives - Page 73 of 90 - The Millions

March 16, 2010

Reading War and Peace: The Effects of Great Art on an Ordinary Life 46

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One somewhat disquieting effect of reading War and Peace is that the more your own thoughts show up in its pages, the less original your life begins to feel.

March 15, 2010

Country of Quakes 3

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In Chile, one learns the word for earthquake before the word for thunder, a consequence of living in a country where thunder rumbles infrequently but the earth shakes every few months.

March 11, 2010

On Epigraphs 20

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Should epigraphs be thought of as part of the text, a sort of pre-modern, post-modern device, like tossing a newspaper clipping into the body narrative? Or are they actually a direct invitation by the author, perhaps saying, “Look here, for from this inspiration came this tale?”

March 10, 2010

Through the Looking Glass: Notes on Disappearance 11

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People don’t disappear nearly as often in real life as they do in fiction. We’re fascinated, as a culture, by the idea of vanishing.

March 9, 2010

What About Genre, What About Horror? 50

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Just for beginners, let’s admit that literary fiction is a genre, too, shall we? Expectations guide its readers, that of respect for consensus reality and the poignancy of seemingly ordinary lives, of sensitive character-drawing and vivid scene-painting, of the reversals and conflicts characteristic of the several sub-genres of literary fiction.

March 4, 2010

Dispatch from the Borders-Land 13

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Late on a late December Friday, I decided to try something different: I headed to a mall-bound Borders and asked 37 customers about their relationship to books.

March 2, 2010

That Woman Who Writes 8

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I became known as “that woman who writes”—the patrons and employees showing me new tattoos, telling me about their breakups and fights and hangovers, and complaining about the “dickhead” who owned the coffeehouse.

February 26, 2010

Joy of Cooking: A Novel Experience 12

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The truth is, I read cookbooks like novels. Cover to cover, page by page, the dedication, the acknowledgments, the indexes: I devour everything.

February 19, 2010

My Biographer Will Be Pleased: Thoughts on Personal Papers 8

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I am so focused on things these days, of discarding them, packing them, transporting them. And my books and these old papers and letters–these say the most about my life than anything, any thing, could.

February 18, 2010

Not Lost, Just Rearranged: A Profile of Michelle Huneven 7

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“What’s wrong with you, is wrong with your writing,” Huneven says. “It really behooves you to find out what that is, so that you can disguise that in your writing. Or compensate it, or cover it up. Or cure it, if you can.”