Thrilling finale of my Culture Diary

I can’t believe I forgot to link to the second installment of my Paris Review Daily Culture Diary.

It’s not any sexier than the first, I’m afraid, but if you’re craving more usage pedantry, solo drinking tips, or line-editing blow-by-blows, you won’t want to let this one pass you by.

Here’s one of the mouse-over notes:

After reading Brad Gooch’s biography of Flannery O’Connor last year, I internalized her (and Elizabeth Hardwick’s) prohibition against allowing the same word to appear twice on a page, and my prose strains in places as a result. I wonder: did O’Connor read Muriel Spark? If so, confronted with such hilarious and inarguably brilliant repetitions — see, e.g., the sticks* — how could she have continued to adhere to her rule? Also how did Spark reuse words so imaginatively? She built humor through the sameness but somehow made the descriptions fresh every time. I wish she could revise this scene I’m getting ready to work on now, the one with the dogs in the car.

Somewhat relatedly: as predicted, Caitlin Roper’s issue of The Paris Review was waiting in the mailbox on my return from Florida. I turned first to my friend Victor LaValle’s essay, which is just great, and then to the R. Crumb interview, which you won’t want to miss if you’re a fan, and then, fingers quivering with years of accumulated anticipation, I read the Katherine Dunn excerpt, which made me want to read more.

* Mouse-over note from the first installment: “By now there are passages I could almost quote from memory — especially the post-funeral scenes involving the writer with rheumatoid arthritis slouched over ‘two sticks,’ making his way among the funeral flowers as the other elderly characters goggle at him. The novelty of the Scottishism (‘sticks’ rather than ‘canes’) tickles me, of course, but it’s the perfect, deadly repetition of the word — all the glimpses of the ‘clever little man doubled over his sticks’ — that makes this section so funny.”


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