In Person

May 7, 2013

Zora Neale and My Sister 0


Before my trip to the birthplace of Zora Neale Hurston, I had a vague notion of what manner of suffering might make a person accept death. Love, I suspect — or at least companionship — sustained my sister after the return of her cancer.

April 26, 2013

Young Novelists, Old Institutions: Granta at the Book Club of California 3


The Book Club is not hip, but on Monday evening, I felt the spiritual glamour of a place, which, despite its age and sometime pokiness, is founded on the fundamentally sound principle that if you have three glasses of wine in a plastic cup and listen to something beautiful or see it, it can change the whole complexion of the world.

April 17, 2013

After the Marathon: We Contain Multitudes 1


I had to keep making noise. Because they kept coming. We were standing at the top of a hill and you could look down Comm Ave. and see a river of people with no end.

April 5, 2013

Now She Has a Name: When a Serial Killer Visited My Small Town 3


My parents reassured me that we were safe. But there were deeper questions: Why hadn’t anyone noticed that a head was missing? Wasn’t the family looking for the head? The thought that no family member cared enough about this person’s head to claim it back was even more terrifying. If your family can’t search for your missing head, then what good are they, in the end?

March 26, 2013

Literature in the Fortress 1


From the beginning, there was a hint of the surreal to the recent Lahore Literary Festival. The incredible urgency, the amazing passion, the unequivocal triumph of the festival – that happened because it was in fact a certain kind of protest.

March 22, 2013

The Secret Lives of Poets: Dispatches from AWP 7


This year, the conference was held at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, a complex that apparently was designed to remind people of what it might be like if a SuperMax prison and a Chico’s had a baby.

March 18, 2013

A Frolic of My Own: Meeting William Gaddis 4


Mr. William Gaddis had a request for me. Would I be so kind as to review a mock judicial opinion meant to form part of his “novel in the form of a network of lawsuits”? You bet I would!

February 12, 2013

The League of Ordinary Gentlemen: A Conversation with Julian Barnes 3


“A friend of mine once said to me, why are so many of the characters in your novels so sort of wimpy and passive? …I suppose it’s that I’m less interested in the typical hero who goes out and does things. My heroes don’t do things. Sometimes things are done to them.”

January 18, 2013

Letters in the Wind: A Writer’s Evolution 7


I realized that my writing at age 28 was a lot like my golf game as a teenager: a single gust of wind and it went to Hell.

January 4, 2013

The Old Corner Bookstore Is Now A Chipotle 19


On the wall behind her, a sign informs me that this is “food with integrity.” A dozen meat strips sizzle on the open stove; Chipotle’s chicken, boasts another sign, “is raised without antibiotics and fed a diet free of animal by-products.”