Quick Hits

April 27, 2012

Let’s Translate this Thing: Murathan Mungan’s Cities of Women 14

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Anglophones have a rare opportunity here for a bit of friendly cultural one-upmanship with the French: In a talk last summer, Mungan told the assembled that his French publishers rejected Cities of Women because they wanted to advertise him strictly as a novelist. The introduction of his stories and plays and poems to the market, they told him, would “confuse” the French people.

April 12, 2012

The Books We Come Back To 62

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It shows adulthood and devotedness, I think, to try and get back to a book you love, every four seasons or so. So which books do you all reread yearly, or biannually, or quadrennially, or decennially, and why?

April 6, 2012

Even David Foster Wallace Nods 14

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Where Wallace probably went wrong was in confusing the Greek nomos, meaning “law,” with onoma, meaning “name.”

March 28, 2012

A Previously Unpublished Scene from The Pale King by David Foster Wallace 15

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Eagle-eyed readers looking at the cover of the soon-to-be-released paperback edition of David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King may have noticed the words “With Four Previously Unpublished Scenes.”

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.