Category Archives: Uncategorized

Franzen on Turkle.

This review by Jonathan Franzen of Sherry Turkle’s new book is worth reading and re-reading for so many things. Here’s just a snippet:

[Turkle’s] new book, “Reclaiming Conversation,” extends her critique, with less ­emphasis on robots and more on the dissatisfaction with technology reported by her recent interview subjects. She takes their dissatisfaction as a hopeful sign, and her book is straightforwardly a call to arms: Our rapturous submission to digital technology has led to an atrophying of human capacities like empathy and self-­reflection, and the time has come to reassert ourselves, behave like adults and put technology in its place.

And this, too:

The likably idealized selves that they’ve created with social media leave their real selves all the more isolated. They communicate incessantly but are afraid of face-to-face conversations; they worry, often nostalgically, that they’re missing out on something fundamental.

Admiral James Stavridis on Reading Fiction.

Over at The Millions, an interview with Admiral James Stavridis, dean of Tufts University’s graduate school of Law and Diplomacy and a lifelong reader of fiction:

I read constantly. I read probably 80 percent fiction, 20 percent nonfiction. And I have found through reading fiction, I understand the human condition better.

You said a moment ago that a novel is a sanctuary in the middle of this violent world. Let’s remember that occasionally, novels are also moments of violence in an otherwise very peaceful life. It can be the opposite. And so if you can think of a novel as a kind of simulator where you imagine what you would do in a stressful, dangerous situation, it becomes, I think, a very helpful learning tool about ourselves.

Some very insightful stuff here—both on the novels he talks about and on his general philosophy on why reading fiction is important.

“Stare Decisis” in Midwestern Gothic

mwgothicissue17Very excited to share that Issue # 17 of the great lit mag Midwestern Gothic is now out, and it includes a short story of mine, “Stare Decisis.” Here’s a somewhat representative excerpt:

Nobody told Walters, upon putting on the judicial robes, how all of his friends would change their conversations around him, how they would treat him differently. Even the longtime confidants—the ones he’d had since college, who remembered him passing out at a party, or caught him falling flat on his face going after a girl, or gave him advice when he was dissolutely smoking cigarettes all day and planning his motorcycle trip across the Badlands—all distanced themselves once they knew he had sentenced someone to death. The couples that he and his wife had socialized with would not get drunk around him. The secret meaning to “sober as a judge” was that you were a buzzkill at all parties. Not that he cared about being drunk—the post-trial hangovers where he’d felt his head unravel in the night which was never quite put back together the next morning, were awful—but it was comforting to see his friends slur their words.

Electronic copies are only $2.99.

“From Jamaica to Minnesota to Myself.”

Marlon James, author of one of the novels that has shot up my TBR pile (thanks to the Tournament of Books), in this lyrical and raw essay for the NY Times:

In creative writing, I teach that characters arise out of our need for them. By now, the person I created in New York was the only one I wanted to be. Over the next two years, I came and left often, pushing the limits of a student visa. I’d make friends but never get close enough to have them ask me anything too deep, playing at being aloof when I was really just shy, and I’d walk past gay bars, turn and walk past again, but never go in. Back home I fell back into church, knowing I didn’t belong there anymore. Once I forgot to code-switch in time and dashed to the bathroom in J.F.K., minutes before my flight to Kingston, to change out of my skinny jeans and hoop earrings. Eight years after reaching the end of myself, I was on borrowed time. Whether it was in a plane or a coffin, I knew I had to get out of Jamaica.

Could probably quote this on and on, but instead—just go read it.

The 2015 Tournament of Books.

Over at The Morning News, the fantastic Tournament of Books is once again in full swing.

Yours truly was the reader judge last year. I’m spending the tournament as an excited spectator this time around. I’ve only read about half of this year’s tournament entries, so I can’t really pick a winner, but of those titles I’ve enjoyed, Dept. of Speculation has to be the best, so I’m rooting for Offill at this point.

Every new week day brings a new heavyweight literary bout, such as today’s.

Review of “The Children Act.”

childrenactMy review of Ian McEwan’s new novel The Children Act is now available online:

Ian McEwan has always had a legal mind. “Atonement,” the novel he is probably best known for, turned on a false accusation, and the ramifications of an unjust conviction based on a relatively thin amount of evidence. “The Children Act,” his new book, centers on the other side of the courtroom: the personal ramifications of a judge deciding a difficult case with conflicting evidence.

Naturally, since it was a legal book, and since it was written by McEwan, I was interested.

Authors Ranking the Greatest Novels.

Over at Brain Pickings, a little round up post highlights a recent list of “best” books that were featured in Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books. Of the top ten—a list compiled by writers through a voting system—the only one I’ve not read is the Proust, which I must say has always been a little intimidating. One day. One. Day.

It’s strikingly similar to the MLA list, which I ventured to read at one point in my life. Still working on that bucket list item.

Balzac’s Brew.

I had no idea Balzac was such a coffee addict:

Coffee — he called it a “great power in [his] life” — made possible a grueling writing schedule that had him going to bed at six, rising at 1am to work until eight in the morning, then grabbing forty winks before putting in another seven hours.

A writer after my own heart. Some days, though, he would apparently have 50 cups or more. Suddenly all my trips to the Coffee House and the break room at the office don’t seem so bad.