In Person

August 30, 2012

Keeping the Faith: Ten Days at Bread Loaf 13


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.

August 17, 2012

The Writing Life: From Beirut and Cambodia to New York, Florida, and Parts Unknown 8


It wasn’t easy. I wanted to finish a book. Be a good dad. Get an MFA. Be a good husband. I’d lined up a teaching job at a university in Beirut. Got an essay in a publication that might impress you. Called my mom as much as I could. I couldn’t call my dad, he was dead. When do you know if it’s actually starting to add up, when you can say, OK, yes, this is real, it’s actually happening.

July 13, 2012

A Night at The Moth: The Worst Thing that Ever Happened to Me 8


Why it is that people gravitate to the most tragic or dramatic moments of their lives when given a chance to tell a story? There are, I think, two reasons.

June 27, 2012

#LitBeat: Funny and Dirty in San Francisco 1


Sheila Heti took the stage last, and told us that she would be dirty. And how. Reading from her new book about a divorced feminist playwright, Heti selected what can only be the dirtiest bits, an extended sex party between the protagonist and an artist named Israel.

June 15, 2012

Literary Tourism: At Suttree’s High Gravity Beer Tavern 6


Matt and Anne have also been asked, hopefully, if their menu has a melon cocktail. The disappointing answer is no. The melon has an exalted place in the novel because of a ridiculous but tender scene in which a young botanical pervert call Gene Harrogate steals into the fields by nights, shucks off his overalls, and begins to mount melons in the soil.

June 8, 2012

Outside the Box: From Teaching to Tea Parties 7


I could hear it in her voice when we spoke, her panic. She didn’t know what to do. She’d put in time and money to get that degree, there was supposed to be work at the end of it, and there wasn’t.

June 6, 2012

A Black-and-White Aleph: The Curious Addiction of the Postcard Collector 4


For those of us who had come to the hotel for the convention, the sight of all those tables laid out with postcards provoked an almost painful greed.

May 25, 2012

Miles to Go: Notes on Marathon Reading 5


You could feel the love. Here was a group turned out to commemorate the brilliance of one guy’s colossal strivings, his dogged humility, the beautiful nuance and intricate recursions of a mind pushing past the simple given.

May 15, 2012

Confessions of a Literary Jingoist 8


It’s an age-old complaint, but things don’t really seem to be changing. You can seek out literature from just about anywhere — and now it’s easier than any previous point in history — but it’s a hell of a lot harder to bring it into the conversation.

May 8, 2012

Out of Reach: Notes from the David Foster Wallace Symposium 10


I guess this is to say that the symposium had its share of characters one might expect to find in a David Foster Wallace novel.