In Person

June 15, 2012

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

April 26, 2012

If It’s Free, Take It: 2012 World Book Night 4

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It was going to be just me, a box of books, and Pico Boulevard. I was kind of scared.

March 26, 2012

The Lost Manuscript to A Confederacy of Dunces 9

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I had nearly given up on the original manuscript of Confederacy of Dunces until a year ago when I interviewed Lynda Martin, the sister of John Kennedy Toole’s best friend in high school. “The manuscript?” she said in a soft southern accent. “Yes, well I have it in my closet here at home.”

March 2, 2012

Not Your Mother’s Book Club: The Oil Barons Society of Texas 11

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In a South Texas parlor room, 10 men eagerly hold shots of bourbon in their hands. Together they raise their glasses and down the whiskey in one go. This is the Oil Barons Society, an exclusive, men-only book club in San Antonio.

March 1, 2012

The Language of Another World: A New Yorker in Munich 14

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With language out of reach, it’s hard not to feel as if I’m in a dream, or that I’ve crossed over to another world.