In Person

April 5, 2013

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

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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

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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 8

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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

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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

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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.