In Person

February 12, 2013

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

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“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

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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 20

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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.”

November 20, 2012

Goodwill in Brooklyn: On Donating Books to Unexpected Readers 13

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I am uncomfortable shedding books. The three boxes my husband and I were holding, plus three more in the trunk of the car, were the result of a careful purge executed after living abroad for a year.

November 19, 2012

Electricity Junkies: On Life in the Blackout Zone 1

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I woke at dawn, ate supper when the sun set, and slept straight through the nights. My rest gorged on dark and quiet as if sleep were celebration, free from horns and big rigs, sirens, sidewalk screams and glare — the gang that, most evenings, steals into my room and snaps my dreams in pieces. 

November 16, 2012

Sitting with the Longshots at the National Book Awards 5

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Domingo Martinez didn’t come to New York just wanting and hoping to win a National Book Award. He had come here prepared to win. Like I said, the coolest guy in the house.

November 13, 2012

Mark Binelli Explains Why Detroit City Is the Place to Be 5

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When Binelli encountered a group of German college student poking through the gutted Packard plant, he asked what had inspired them to vacation in Detroit. One gleefully replied, “I came to see the end of the world!”

October 17, 2012

“The Human Heart is a Chump”: Cataloging The Pale King 22

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I am the cataloger of David Foster Wallace’s final work, The Pale King, and I’m here to tell you that in cases like these, the rules will only get you so far.

September 7, 2012

Train of Thought: Meditations on NYC and the End of Summer 1

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I see a great blue heron, flying north, and as we pass each other, I stifle an urge to say, Turn around, bird, New York City — where anything is possible, where it’s cruel but magical and big things can still happen — that place is SOUTH.

August 30, 2012

Keeping the Faith: Ten Days at Bread Loaf 13

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The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the oldest and most prestigious of its kind in the country, is a curious mix of summer camp, trade convention, and religious retreat.