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. Ban the guns. The door opening, and the kids looking up. Oh, god, scratch that. Annoyed with the reporters, scrambling for information, who have no choice, no […]

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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 […]

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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. Righteousness is not a substitute for knowledge. It took me a […]

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Go Out And Buy Kate Boo’s Book Immediately

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The other night, when Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers won the National Book Award for nonfiction, a couple of friends emailed and tweeted at me immediately, because I’d been bugging them to read it for months. I have had a small campaign going since I spent one long night about two years ago reading […]

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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 […]

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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. Then some […]

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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 — […]

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On the Comfort of Bad Books

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At last weekend’s New Yorker festival, Salman Rushdie ventured the opinion that the inexplicably popular 50 Shades of Grey “made Twilight look like War and Peace.” I don’t like Twilight, I’ve never read 50 Shades of Grey, and still some defensive antenna of mine shot up. Not to pick on Rushdie too particularly, of course, his statement was hardly original or surprising. It’s just that there […]

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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 […]

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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. The Iron Fist of Isaac Fitzgerald (quite a fearsome […]

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Lia Lee, 1982-2012

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Lia Lee, the protagonist of Anne Fadiman’s excellent work of non-fiction, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, died on August 31st. If you don’t know just what that signifies, the Times has a long article about Lia, and the book, but it’s too simplistic, and I’d suggest you just go read the book itself. It’s […]

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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. I belong […]

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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. I forget, sometimes, even […]

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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 […]

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Vonnegut’s Marriage Contract

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In his first marriage, Vonnegut was reduced to making out a contract with his wife to get all the relevant chores done. Those of you who are co-habiting or planning to do so in the forseeable future may find this clause particularly helpful: It is understood that, should I find these commitments in any way […]

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This is a Link-Heavy Saturday

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I had a terribly busy week. One of the things keeping me busy, I’d like to mention, is the excitement over the release of D.T. Max’s Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, which goes on sale on Thursday. Since roughly last October I’ve been helping as a research assistant […]

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A Pussy Riot Roundup

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I’d write you something about Pussy Riot, but I am, personally, totally exhausted by the avalanche of commentary which does not appear to consider the particular political and religious context in Russia, and I would be incapable of doing anything myself but adding to that. So I figured I’d give you a roundup of the […]

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About David Rakoff

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I did not know David Rakoff, never so much as met him, and I did not know that he was in these last few weeks quite as sick as he clearly was, but for weeks before his death I’d been sending out an essay of his to friends. It’s the one he wrote for the […]

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My Mother Always Told Me Nice Is As Nice Does

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At Slate, yesterday, Jacob Silverman wrote a piece denouncing the pernicious trend of “enthusiasm” he detects in the online literary universe. (BREAKING: People might still like and read books.) He holds up the writer Emma Straub’s Twitter feed as exhibit A. Her 9,000+ follower count seems to offend him, given that she’s not, I don’t […]

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A Brief Saturday Rumpus History Lesson on Envy

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I can’t stay here long today as some other pressing obligations call. But there’s been a higher than average amount of chatter about writerly jealousy this week. I assure you if you think I’m being vague to cover for that one thing you read, I’m not; I saw at least three unrelated items go by. […]

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