Quick Hits

March 16, 2012

Innocent and Abroad: Mark Twain and the Art of Travel Writing 1

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In the end, travel books — or personal essays — are doomed. Try to describe the gorilla and you fail. Words are never enough, and most will ultimately be forgotten. And if that gorilla is a man? Maybe better not to have begun at all.

November 10, 2011

Of Fracking and Franzen: Is Strong Motion Coming True in Oklahoma? 12

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I cannot imagine the circumstances under which I would discover that my actions had caused an earthquake. But I think if I did, my next move would probably be to stop doing whatever it was I was doing — not to figure out a way to live with the earthquakes. Because if energy companies actually believe that fracking causes earthquakes — and if they continue to frack — where does it end?

November 4, 2011

A Small Gallery of Literary Giants 24

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Since I’m convinced that people tend to be more interesting once they’re dead, obituaries have always been my favorite part of the newspaper. So whenever a noteworthy writer died, I started drawing the picture that accompanied the obit, eventually adding drawings of noteworthy long-dead writers. Here, then, is a gallery of a few of those literary giants, along with brief explanations of what was going through my head as my pen was fashioning their heads.

August 4, 2011

Older and Wiser 19

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Hot debuts, Young Lions, 5 Under 35… the publishing biz has decided that the kids are all right. But where does that leave those of us on the far side of 40?

July 27, 2011

Original Sin 8

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If you can’t be a unique writer, have the markings of a generic. Glamorize your squalid room in the bohemian part of a bright metropolis. Peddle opinions on the books you read (if you read). Consort with other writers.

July 20, 2011

On Treating Books Badly 20

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Books as books – as tangible things you can hold in your hands and show off to curious onlookers on the subway and friends who visit your apartment – are something I hold in high esteem. But there is, as I say, some pleasure in letting go, in allowing a book to get wet, in treasuring a book not for what it looks like but for what it says.

July 18, 2011

Exclusive: The First Lines of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 16

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Classical music and a taxi ride kick off Murakami’s long awaited novel.

June 16, 2011

On Bloomsdays Past 0

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We brought the world of Ulysses to, say, the Tivoli, or the Grand Canal, or the Art Museum and the Rocky statue.

June 14, 2011

Last Words 14

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When do we, as writers, accept that a piece is as good as it will ever be, even if it’s not that great? When do we decide that a piece will never be good enough to be published?

May 23, 2011

Exclusive: The First Lines of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot 14

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A bookish first paragraph kicks off this new novel set to come out in October.