Posts by: Michael Berger

Reimagining The Memoir

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“That it is being considered as book of criticism, rather than as memoir, seems the luck of the draw. Some of the essays in it were originally published in the guise of book reviews, but they always jump the rails of literary journalism and go off on their own course — assessing not just the text but its place in the constellation of her own interests and personal history, which are (respectively) various and knotty.”

In light of all the back and forth about memoirs, I think this appraisal of Terry Castle’s The Professor and Other Writings is pretty enlightening.

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The Joys Of Freelancin’

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“The great thing about freelance, of course, is the numerous freedoms it embraces, chief among them being the freedom to work in your underwear. This seems to be the one that everyone knows. I was talking on the phone to an uncle of mine who’s in a nursing home, and when I told him I was working freelance, he said, ‘Oh, the underwear people!’”

Essays like this are the reason I put pants on sometimes.

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Joining The Penny Club

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“Writers love to watch their online listings. First, there’s watching the rankings that can be ginned up by a one-day spike.

Then noticing, sometimes within days of being listed, used and like new copies of their books for sale by some seller, like, in the middle of Michigan.

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Wisdom Of The Day

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Comes from Gary Snyder from his influential and beautiful book of essays, The Practice Of The Wild.

It’s in the opening essay, “The Etiquette Of Freedom” where he says:

“Practically speaking, a life that is vowed to simplicity, appropriate boldness, good humor, gratitude, unstinting work and play, and lots of walking brings us close to the actually existing world and its wholeness.”

There is something in that statement that I can’t stop thinking about even as it rains in sheets this morning, thus preventing me from wandering around and bringing my boldness and gratitude into play with the outside world.

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Swamps Meet Hitchcock

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“So I guess I don’t feel like I seek strangeness out—I feel like we’re all surrounded by it—but there’s so much bewildering noise in our culture right now, at such a deafening and constant volume, that it’s easy for me to become inured to the strangeness of any ‘ordinary’ Tuesday.”

The Book Bench talks to the young and very talented Karen Russell, author of the recent and what’s certainly one of the more intriguing new novels out now, Swamplandia!

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Zadie Smith On Novel Writing

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“Fiction needs intellect, but it can’t survive on intellect alone. . .It has to arrive at the other embarrassing things, things that seem too banal to talk about in like the appreciation of small details of things that other people leave at home because they’re not worth discussing…Questions that intelligent people would find too dumb to ask like, ‘Am I really alive?’ or ‘What does it mean to be good?’”

Via Bookforum, Zadie Smith talks about writing and cultivating the banal.

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On Prose, Pararadoxes and Proofs

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“But even from the inside of a human life, it’s possible to see when you’ve made a baby seal out of thin air, and someone is coming along to bash its head in with a club, because its coat is silky, and because you have the awesomely exploitable ability to rearrange matter, to have creatures explode from your skull, to utter inutterable things.

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Broke? Tired of Joyce Carol Oates? Go to the Fake AWP!

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Breaking news from the world of AWP and everything associated with it:

“To provide a haven for those either too broke, too busy, or too disillusioned (with the fact that really it ought to be AWWP, jeez) to attend the massive four-day conference in Washington, D.C., an assortment of Brooklyn writers and editors are taking over Brooklyn Winery from 8pm to 10pm on Friday, February 4th.

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Percival Everett on Franzen, Sexism and The Great American Novel

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“I do not believe that apparent authoritative literary voices of validation would ever make such a grand claim about a novel written by a woman.  I say this because I believe there are many novels by women that are about the same sort of world as presented in Freedom.  Sadly, the culture usually calls these books domestic or family sagas.  Are the novels of Anne Tyler, Marilynne Robinson and Mona Simpson any less white and middle “American” than Franzen”

At VIDA, author Percival Everett explores the big assumptions and unpsoken prejudices behind Great American Novels (like Freedom.) (Via)

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Mary Roach Talks Coca-Cola and Writing Habits

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“I love that discussion about Coca-Cola spending $450,000 to have Coke in space because carbonation is not lighter up there. Everything weighs the same. The gas stays in the middle, it doesn’t rise to the top, so they spent $450,000 making carbonation work in space so they could say, ‘Official Carbonated Beverage of the International Space Station.’

And then they realized that in the human stomach, if gas doesn’t rise to the top of the stomach, you can’t burp it out.

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More Pacazo

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“It’s a shaggy-dog tale, one that eventually—boldly—invites comparison to its great progenitor, Don Quixote. In cutting a classic wide swath, Pacazo exposes itself to risk, a tricky balance between hilarity and horror. By and large, though, this rangy novel earns its claim to the old knight’s inheritance.”

John Domini at Bookforum gives a great review of the Rumpus January Book Club pick: Pacazo by Roy Kesey.

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