Conversations

On Being Voted Most Helpful

I once had a coworker who would frequently employ the phrase: “You’re 100% right.” In the years that I knew that person, they never uttered the phrase: “You’re 100% wrong.” But what is your praise worth if you never censure anything? The funny thing is, it’s worth a great deal. The opinions of those who praise almost everything are highly coveted. This is called publishing politics….or writerly politics if you’re a writer. File under: how to get published.

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

Dave Egger’s A Hologram for the King is built as well as the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a landmark work of American craft. Of all the works of contemporary American literature, this is the one that I’m most sure will last. It’s an ironic literary event, since its theme is the flight of soulcraft from shop work in the United States. The irony is that it’s so superlatively constructed itself, its mutually reinforcing metaphors and anecdotes giving it a shot, like the Great Bridge, of enduring.

NW by Zadie Smith Part 2 “Guest”

The second section of NW is called “Guest”. It’s a chronicle of the last day in the life of Felix. The reader knows he’s going to die in a mugging. But a moment after Felix steps out of the bed of his new girlfriend, Grace, you forget that. Felix is in the deep shit of his life. When you are in it, there is no death. It’s all plans. You’re wrong if you think the dead don’t make plans.

Why I Collect Real Books II

In the years I was collecting Ford, he wrote a story that appeared in the New Yorker about his relationship with Raymond Carver. A small press in England printed a limited staple bound run, and I bought one. Ford was happy to sign it. I was shaking when I met him, I don’t know why, just nerves. I told him how much I loved his collection Rock Springs, and specifically the story Rock Springs, and the last paragraph. Ford recited that last paragraph word for word and I nearly broke down in tears. I may never meet him again, but that was a really nice moment.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The Amazing Amy books are a wonderful piece of skywriting on Flynn’s part, and these little moments blow in and out of the book. The years leading up to the disappearance which is the central theme of this novel are so precisely woven together that I can only imagine how wonderfully fantastically intricate Flynn’s flowchart on her office wall must have been.

May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes

I saw Homes as working through all this dense material, fighting to get out from under it. When Ashley and Nate, George’s privileged, abandoned kids, urge the adoption of Ricardo, the plump, dysfunctional survivor of George’s violence, Homes remarks that it’s the way with kids to think that everything can be made all right, that the damage that adults think is irreparable can be mended.