Tag Archives: writing

Bel Canto: I may be tone deaf, but I know good writing.

The only thing I remember from first year English is a lecture that argued that all creative writing (whether poetry or prose) is about the urge by authors to create something which will outlast them. That every poem or story is, in the end, a valiant gesture toward immortality. And that readers should read with an eye to the way the author intentionally and accidentally imbues their work with this impulse; that is, that the discerning reader will always be able to find evidence of the author’s vanity, of their arrogance in thinking their work will endure. At the time I found the argument moving and persuasive. Since then I think back on it more as an example of excellent teaching, it was a well paced lecture with convincing examples and analysis. Which isn’t to say I now thinking writing isn’t about immortality, just that I haven’t had cause to declare an allegiance in the great What is Writing For debate of humanity.  Continue reading

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Filed under American literature, Fiction, Orange Prize

My Name Is Lucy Barton: In which I retract my claim about writers in New York.

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I deserved this book. After all my whinging about how all books set in New York about writers were/are terrible, I read Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton and find myself retracting that outrageous and essentializing claim. Instead let’s agree that almost all books set in New York about writers are terrible – one exception is this one. Which is terrific. Really. Continue reading

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Filed under American literature, Fiction

The Nest: You’ve Already Read This Book; or, On Doubting Your Memory Because This Book is So Unoriginal and Terrible

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Three chapters in to Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest I checked the publication date (2016) and decided no, despite the nagging feeling, I hadn’t read the book before. Four chapters in I checked this site to be absolutely sure I hadn’t read it before. I have been known to forget things like books I’ve read (or meetings, or words, or…) on occasion constantly. Trusty site confirmed that it was a “new” read.  Continue reading

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Filed under Bestseller, Fiction, Funny

Outline: Sometimes you have to be bored by a novel

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People seem excited about Rachel Cusk’s Outline because it’s some sort of experiment in form and characterization: the ‘novel’ follows a writer/writing instructor while she is in Greece teaching a writing seminar.  The novel narrates her conversations with those she encounters – from airplane seat mates to long time friends – over the course of her trip. There is something to be said for the way her character is revealed in relief – what she doesn’t say, how she lets the conversation be focused on the other person, by the questions she asks and the settings in which these conversations unfold (e.g. on a boat with a person she met on the plan the day before).  Continue reading

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Filed under Bestseller, Fiction, New York Times Notable