For Tin House’s site, I write about finding solace for the slow pace of my own novel in the writing of Donna Tartt and my friend Alexander Chee.
“Search is a deep human yearning, an ancient trope in the recorded history of human life.” Please get to know Ellen Ullman’s novelistic and critical brilliance (which I discuss at length at Salon) if you haven’t yet.
“The model I saw was that a writer was someone who sat at the table writing.” At B&N Review, I talk with writer, bartender, and NYT Mag drink columnist Rosie Schaap about her new book Drinking With Men.
At The New Yorker’s Double Take, Alexander Chee, Laura Miller, Dwight Garner, Sloane Crosley, and I choose some of our favorite longreads from the magazine’s archives.
I’ve updated the events page to include upcoming appearances at the Pratt Writers’ Forum, Jerusalem International Book Fair, and 2013 AWP Conference, and a reading from the anthology What My Mother Gave Me, at Greenlight Books.
His writings, she says, “writhed and ached with twists and turns and tergiversations, inept words, fanciful repetitions, far-fetched verbosity and long, Latin-based words. … Hector Bartlett, it seemed to me, vomited literary matter, he urinated and sweated, he excreted it.” “Pisseur de copie,” she hisses at him one morning in the park where he faux-casually lies in wait for her.
“‘Won’t you call me Hector,’” he says, after pretending not to hear and cajoling her for a while, when she dismisses him with a “Mr. Bartlett.”
“‘No,’” she says, “‘I call you Pisseur de copie,” and takes her leave. And though it costs her two jobs, she insists on continuing to call him this, not only to Hector himself but to everyone else, just about every time his name is mentioned. It’s almost involuntary, she says, “like preaching the gospel.”
I can’t decide whether it’s more narcissistic or more fair-mindedly self-critical to compare oneself to cretinous novel characters, but I do it all the time, and the negative example of Hector Bartlett is something I increasingly reflect on now when I’m thinking of posting my opinion on some subject or considering whether to take an assignment. I think: Is this something I really care about? Am I actually informed about this, or do I have enough time and interest to become genuinely informed about it? Do I have, if not yet a clear picture of exactly what I want to say, a conviction that I have something to say? I’ve used roughly the same metrics in the past, but they’re stricter now. While I adore and have benefitted greatly from being alive in a time when anything I want to say can be published online immediately, the instant gratification machine that is the Internet also has a high potential to encourage indiscriminate urination of prose. Also, life is short, I am still not finished with my book, and there is more than enough tergiversating to go around.