Reconsidering Updike.

Louis Menand’s review/essay of Adam Begely’s new Updike biography is fascinating: The most persistent and mindlessly recycled criticism of Updike’s work is that he was infatuated with his own style, that he over-described everything to no purpose—that, as several critics put it, he had “nothing to say.” But Updike wasn’t merely showing off with his […]

Writers’ daily routines.

Brain Pickings, always a fantastic site, has developed a nice collection of various writers’ routines. I find DeLillo’s evocation of a desk portrait of Borges the most interesting: To break the spell I look at a photograph of Borges, a great picture sent to me by the Irish writer Colm Tóín. The face of Borges […]

What is left when nothing else is: “Battleborn” by Claire Vaye Watkins.

In 1872, Mark Twain published “Roughing It,” chronicling, in his words, “several years of variegated vegabondizing,” some of it involving the silver mining spree in Nevada. In his prefatory to the volume, Twain wrote that silver rush in the state was “a curious episode, in some respects; the only one, of its peculiar kind, that […]

Back to School Struggles.

By sheer happenstance, I received an assignment from L Magazine to write about various  difficulties children with developmental and/or psychological issues face as they are going back to school. I write “happenstance,” because I had just finished Andrew Solomon’s magisterial Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity only a few days before […]

Great Recent Tennis Writing.

Perhaps since it’s U.S. Open time, there’s been a rash of great new tennis writing at the New York Times and around the web. First there was this piece on Roger Federer’s decline, and then there was also a nice profile of the fascinating Li Na. The Times also created a compendium of some of […]

This is Water.

This has been going around the interwebs lately, and perhaps you have already seen it. If you’ve read this blog before, you know I’ve posted about David Foster Wallace many, many times. I’ve been an avid fan since stumbling across Oblivion in 2005. I like the video, overall. It’s a cool way to distill Wallace’s already-distilled […]

Against “Against Enthusiasm.”

Here’s something I missed awhile back: Jacob Silverman’s well-argued essay bemoaning the “the mutual admiration society that is today’s literary culture, particularly online.” An over simplification of his argument: online, book people and/or reviewers are too damned nice. I myself have stated on this blog a couple times (at least) that, philosophically, in my occasional book reviewing, […]

Poems as Machines: Ben Lerner’s “Leaving the Atocha Station”

I watched the poet Richard Blanco’s inaugural reading with an additional layer of skepticism. His poem, One Today, which opens with plain verve (“One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores”) dissolved in the moment. Obama had just roused the crowd with progressive promises, and while his speech was not filled with detailed […]

Review of “Both Flesh and Not.”

My review of David Foster Wallace’s essay collection Both Flesh and Not, is now live at the Lincoln Journal-Star. A sample: Wallace’s writing — even in this, his least interesting nonfiction collection — always illuminates, and if only in the reflections or refractions of his light, always makes us less stupid. I could have written […]