In Memoriam

March 20, 2015

The Color of Loss: On the Passing of Sir Terry Pratchett 0

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To classify Pratchett is to deny his genius. Just because a book takes place in another world — one with wizards and witches and trolls and dwarfs — doesn’t mean it can’t also provide insight into our own.

February 16, 2015

My Neighbor, the Poet Laureate 1

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When I read over the weekend that Levine had died, at age 87, I thought of that rainy September afternoon in Brooklyn.

January 7, 2015

Those Who Left Us: Select Literary Obituaries from 2014 2

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Once again last year we lost great talents from every precinct of the literary world. Here is a selective compendium of the how a few of them lived, when they died, and the books they left behind.

October 13, 2014

Barry Hannah and I 12

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My phone rang into this atmosphere of despondency and a voice, friendly and southern, asked for me. Barry introduced himself. “I wanted to call and say you wrote an honest book.”

June 2, 2014

Communicating Her Truth: Remembering Maya Angelou 0

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As well as showing us pain that in fiction would be unbearable, by having the courage to write memoir, Angelou also shared hope that in fiction would be implausible.

January 3, 2014

Ten Who Left Us: Select Literary Obituaries from 2013 6

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We lost great talents from every precinct of the literary world last year. Here is a highly selective compendium of the how they lived, when they died, and the books they left behind

November 4, 2013

Lou Reed, Sonic Contrarian 22

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Most of the personal tributes I’ve seen don’t just talk about how great a musician Lou Reed was but how his fine, fine music literally changed their lives.

October 17, 2013

Clean New Music: On Seamus Heaney 2

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I needed Heaney’s voice to know what a voice could sound like, and through Heaney I discovered my own voice. I learned to listen to the timbre of its echoes.

October 3, 2013

Hunting for Red October: Remembering Tom Clancy 4

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The genius of Clancy’s story, its basic believability, like Tolkien’s, comes from a firm commitment to letting the plot unfold logically once the initial hook is in place. It is perhaps difficult to believe there is a ring of power that confirms upon its bearer numinous strength, or that a Russian missile submarine commander, in charge of the newest and most secret sub, would defect along with all his officers. But once you buy the beginning, the rest of the books proceed with rigor.

August 21, 2013

Mr. Leonard Was Different 1

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The first times I saw Elmore Leonard were in the 1950s and ’60s, when we were living near each other in a Detroit suburb and I was playing football with his kid.