29 October 2010

In response to some of the writing that’s been going around on the blogs about the value of MFA programs, and what can really be taught to would-be writers, I’ve written an essay at The Millions — which is a little bit about teaching, but mostly about the uncertainty of the writing life.   Here it is.

25 October 2010

In yesterday’s NYT Sunday Book Review, a review of Danielle Evans‘ debut story collection, Before Your Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, by Lydia Peele. I like the following, which goes out to all the writers and students who’ve said to me, sheepishly, “I feel like I’m always writing about the same people”:

Evans follows girls and young women who are intelligent, gutsy, and black… Rather than limiting the collection’s gaze this perspective amplifies the universal pitfalls of coming of age in 21st-century America.

Also, I’m thinking a lot about child and youth voices in fiction, stories told in the moment of romanticism, some degree of naivete, and limited perspective:

Told from a close distance, these stories lack the rich patina of hindsight, their pleasure coming instead from an immediacy and an engaging voice.

Looking forward also to Rose Tremain‘s new novel, Trespassreviewed this week by David Leavitt.

22 October 2010

Click here to read about why the wonderful essayist at Bookslut, Elizabeth Bachner, grew weepy and then wise, thinking about cruelty to rare animals – like Grunbein’s okapi – and the book Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr Good Enough.

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“To an Okapi in the Munich Zoo”
by Durs Grünbein (trans. Michael Hofman)

The clank of a steel door, and the ignominious entrance
Of the heraldic beast, trembling, because it’s feeding time,
And the keeper wants to knock off, and the beastly onlookers are laughing…
These are things not writ in any unicorn legend. Okapi—
The word is from jungle languages, now themselves extinct,
Insufficiently tall for the savannah, this patient, rust-colored
Throat merits its pellets of straw, and its locked stall at night.
Because the free range world will be strange to him,
As strange as to the bemused visitor
This combination of giraffe and zebra,
Equally remote from the familiar childhood cutout of either.
One more ruminant from the olden days, a sentry
Planted along the zoological roadside, as though to warn
Against the pathos of the exotic throwback.

18 October 2010

From Bookforum’s Omnivore, a post about “happiness,” and a link to a 2009 article: “5 Things You Think Will Make You Happy (But Won’t).

The list is predictable — fame, wealth, beauty, genius, power —  but the blow-by-blow debunking is intriguing, if only because someone has bothered to reason it out for us.  Though I’m not sure reason is ultimately all that helpful when it comes to happiness/unhappiness and the irrational longings that relegate us all to tetchy discontentment.

“Tetchy” is my new favorite word.  I must be getting old…

15 October 2010

It seemed like it would be a slam dunk – Sorkin and Fincher – but I left the theater unsatisfied… at The Millions, my thoughts on THE SOCIAL NETWORK.

13 October 2010

Long for This World is a candidate for Real Simple magazine’s book club selection this month.  You can vote here if you’re inclined.

I had a subscription to Real Simple a few years ago, a gift from a friend.  There are lots of useful household tips in there that I liked to revisit (especially helpful for the housekeeping-challenged), along with recipes (for the cooking-challenged); I held on to those 12 issues all this time, and literally three days ago, before hearing about the book club thing, I finally recycled them.  How weird is that?  Maybe it’s time to renew…

8 October 2010

Uh-oh.  I seem to be lapsing into once weekly posting here.  It’s been a busy fall, folks.  But hopefully I’ll get my head above water any minute now…

And speaking of water, I will now distract you with photos of places I’ve visited recently.  Moments of repose in the midst of fall fluster…

From the ferry at Vineyard Haven, Martha’s Vineyard (notice the Black Dog flag)

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My own black dog, enjoying the sun on the ferry

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View of the IAC building from the Highline (NYC) at night

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The Highline at night (I forget how magical it is, a truly inspired urban space)

1 October 2010

This is fun – a list of books compiled at the New York Public Library’s blog of books that have appeared or been mentioned on the show Mad Men (links are NYPL record links):

Meditations in an Emergency – Frank O’Hara
The Best of Everything – Rona Jaffe
Confessions of an Advertising Man – David Ogilvy
Babylon Revisited and Other Stories – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Chrysanthemum and the Sword – Ruth Benedict
Exodus – Leon Uris
Ship of Fools – Katherine Ann Porter
Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence
The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
The Agony and the Ecstasy – Irving Stone
The Group – Mary Mccarthy
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – Edward Gibbon

On that note, Season 4 – for those of us who are cable-less – is now available at Amazon (and hopefully soon at Netflix).

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