In Memoriam

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.

July 25, 2013

The Unfortunate Legacy of Richard Matheson: On the Roots and Unfairly Repellent Qualities of Less-Than-Stellar Film Adaptations 6

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It seems worthy of a Twilight Zone episode: Richard Matheson. 87. A writer and screenwriter and noted figure in the annals of contemporary literature. He’s about to find out, though, that simply producing an effective story is not enough. When adaptations are concerned, sometimes, an effective story is just what one needs to produce a completely ridiculous and terrible story. Richard Matheson is entering a world beyond sight and sound. He’s about to arrive…in The Twilight Zone.

April 8, 2013

A Writer’s Role Model: Roger Ebert 2

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As much as Roger Ebert “belongs” to film, so too does he belong to us writers. We ought to consider him one of our own.

November 2, 2012

A Champion of Literary Translation: On the Loss of Michael Henry Heim 1

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Heim was a man who literally seemed to have more hours in the day than the rest of us. He was someone who pushed for greater visibility of translation in the larger world of American letters, who supported and nurtured would-be translators with every free minute.

August 10, 2012

Under His Spell: Dreaming of Gore Vidal 3

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When Buckley called the student protestors crypto Nazis, Vidal said the only crypto Nazi he saw was Buckley. Buckley exploded: “Now listen, you queer. Stop calling me a crypto Nazi or I’ll sock you in the goddamn face.” Vidal remained remarkably calm. He broke into a boyish smile, as if he thought Buckley were only joking. Then the smile wavered when he understood how angry the man was.