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Posts by: Michelle Dean

What Is There To Say?

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A lot of people are good at quick reactions to the kind of day we had yesterday. I’m not. I mean, of course, I had the usual thoughts.

  1. Ban the guns.
  2. The door opening, and the kids looking up.
  3. Oh, god, scratch that.
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When Publishers Had A Sense of Humor

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There was once a time when we thought of the book industry as less under siege. In that time, people were more prone to pulling the legs of the powers that be. Including the bestseller lists. In the mid-1950s, a radio host who would go on to write the short stories that formed the basis of the movie A Christmas Story, a man named Jean Shepherd, decided to manufacture a bestseller.

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“Don’t Do It For Money”?

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This week an article about the 1962-63 newspaper strike was everywhere. The Vanity Fair piece is very good, pointing out that the strike opened up career possibilities for many of the New Journalists—Gay Talese, Nora Ephron, Tom Wolfe, and Calvin Trillin among them, names that still mean something even outside the realms of journalism nerdery.

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Used Books

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1. The people who fret over the Future of the Book talk about the loss of the tactile, of the physical act of holding the book. Me, the only thing I worry about is no longer having used books.

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Speaking of the World We Live In

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People in Gaza are dying in it, and an invasion may happen by the end of the weekend. I try never to write about things I would be talking out of my ass about, and Israel/Palestinian relations happens to be one of those things.

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Today I have a cold, so I am eating comfort foods and reading Nora Ephron’s early collections, which Vintage has just reissued and I now command you to buy. When she died everyone remembered her as a screenwriter and a longtime supporter of women and perhaps the most successful revenge novelist of all time, but they largely forgot that she was once sharp-tongued and radical.

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The Man Behind the Faulkner Estate

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Now here’s a nightmare most writers never contemplate: imagine that it’s years after you have died, and joined the pantheon of literary greats in absentia, and are so renowned that filmmakers can quote you in passing, and attribute it to your last name alone because the audience, damn straight, knows who you are.

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The Frankenstorm and H.P. Lovecraft

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I’d suppose we all need no greater horror story this weekend than the prospect of a Mitt Romney presidency, or of the emergence of yet another Republican who has bizarre and frankly idiosyncratic views on rape. Then there is the prospect, for us sad East Coasters, of the devastation to be wrought by the — feels a bit flippant to say it since it did, in fact, kill people already — Frankenstorm.

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Nadya Labi’s New Yorker Feature

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You will thank me for telling you to run to your nearest newsstand to purchase last week’s New Yorker before it disappears. It contains a remarkable reported story by Nadya Labi about an honor-roll-student turned hitman in Detroit. This is the kind of writing I wish we could all do more of, though it’s expensive and time-consuming; it takes months and years to get the kind of trust Labi did from her subjects.

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Hey, So A Book Deal Went Down This Week

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There’s been a lot of grumbling in my local area about a certain Book Deal, the astronomical sum it amounted to, its potential to displace sums that could be allocated to other books, the dubious economics of such a deal, and on and on and on.

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Stacey May Fowles on Sexual Violence

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Stacey May Fowles has a great essay up at the National Post about writing and publishing — or rather, writing and not-publishing — accounts of sexual violence. It might not be possible for an American to know the shadow the serial killer Paul Bernardo cast on women of a certain generation in Ontario.

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Wolcott Gibbs’ Rules for Editing

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Last night I was talking to a friend about how I would run a magazine, assuming I ever happened to do such a thing. I told her I’d probably run it according to Wolcott Gibbs’ “Theory and Practice of Editing New Yorker Articles,” and my friend said she hadn’t read it.

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Saturday Miscellany

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I continue to be distressed at the lack of North American access to Parade’s End. Ford Madox Ford is the kind of writer other writers of his day read and interacted with and then felt they must react to. A lot of this seems to have to do with Ford’s own talent for self-mythology, which Max Saunders tells us about in this Oxford University Press post.

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