The greatest American novel, according to some experts

I've always been fascinated by books that define themselves as distinctly American: American Pastoral, American Psycho, etc., to say nothing of the many books that encapsulate uniquely American events or characters but that lack the titular adjective -- I'm thinking of many of Steinbeck's works, Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, The Winter of our Discontent. What…

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On breakfast, the sexiest meal of the day

I could eat breakfast all day. Give me oatmeal with milk and honey, pancakes with maple syrup, sausage and scrambled eggs with goat cheese, cherry scones with homemade whipped cream. Lots of coffee, black. One of my favorite breakfasts, though, is simply leftovers from the previous night's dinner. Israeli couscous with dried fruit mixed with…

Audio books for the win

In November, I flew home to visit family. I bought a copy of Michael Ondaatje's The Cat's Table to read on the trip. I have yet to finish it. I love Ondaatje's other works like The English Patient, Coming Through Slaughter, and Divisadero. Though I certainly haven't had the focus lately to give it its…

Some thoughts on life of late

Hello, all. I'm happy to report that I'm very nearly at my goal of dropping 50 lbs this year! My two littles are by turns wonderful and hair-wrenching; I spend most of the day pulling Segundo down from the staircase and the other half of the day fishing toys and wads of paper out of…

An intermezzo

Before I jump into the novels I mentioned in my last post, I have two things to mention. Firstly, I have a short nonfiction piece up at Liturgial Credo, where I also contribute my talents, such as they are, as fiction editor. Check it out. Secondly, I just finished Nabokov's Pnin, and I don't get…

Everest vs Balbec

Mark O'Connell lays forth an interesting theory on reading long or "difficult" novels, over at The Millions. He posits that reading such books is not unlike being kidnapped by their authors, with whom we come to sympathize over the course of the journey. He writes: Reading a novel of punishing difficulty and length is a…

Rules for writing

Last year, The Guardian asked several writers for their personal lists of rules for writing.  Franzen's is full of wisdom.  He says things like:  "It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction. [True!]  Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.  You have to love before you can be relentless."…

Steve Almond on “Editors, Ambition, and Angry Dependence”

On July 30 of this year, Kevin Morrissey, the managing editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, took his own life.  The media cast his boss, Ted Genoways, as a bad guy and a bully, and the whole affair was all very sad.  Steve Almond wrote a beautiful meditation, in 33 parts, on Morrissey, the industry,…

Turning the tables on B.R. Myers

I've invoked B.R. Myers' criticism of contemporary American literature several times on this little weblog, but not everyone finds his crotchetiness so charming.  In fact, Garth Risk Hallberg over at The Millions makes some really great points about Myers' particular brand of criticism, using Myers' unfavorable review of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom as a prime example,…

De gustibus non est disputandum

I got all excited to read this article, which set itself up to mock a great deal of contemporary literary darlings, a la B.R. Myers.  But the article itself falls quite flat -- or rather, it preens itself extravagantly and obnoxiously without really making any salient points.  It's a tirade by one Evert Cilliers about…