Posts by: Michelle Dean

It’s Bloomsday

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James Joyce’s most famous works were long, complicated and, depending on who you’re asking, arguably inaccessible novels. But writing to his four-year-old grandson Stephen (yes, that Stephen) in August 1936 he set himself out a simpler task: write a story a kid could enjoy, as “Stevie” was then just four.

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Saturday History Lesson: Dorothy Parker’s Ashes

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Dorothy Parker died, rather suddenly, of a heart attack in June of 1967. She was seventy-three but had not seemed particularly sick to her friends, who still found her an avid enthusiast of whisky and cigarettes.A chambermaid found her in her room at the Volney hotel on East 74th Street.

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A Saturday Rumpus List of Writers In Unsuitable Employment

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This week brought another spate of bad job-creation news in the United States. This surprised, I think, precisely no one other than pundits, whose job it is to be professionally surprised. The culture of work in this country is unstable at the moment; sometimes I wonder whether not being sure of how to make your living opens your eyes to this in a way not available to the comfortably employed.

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A Short Note on Critics and Criticism

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David Carr and A.O. Scott have a short video up at the Times about the state of modern criticism. As the length would suggest, it’s a light discussion. The subject is really the reviewing of Hollywood-Industrial-complex movies rather than criticism writ large — the kickoff being a certain blockbuster star being Twitter-angry with Scott over his lukewarm review of the movie in question — but the principles of the discussion extend.

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Saturday History Lesson: The Unrequited Yeats

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Certain writers cast shadows of incredible length and darkness, and Yeats is one of them. His poetry has a way of crowding out the sun. As a teenager I fell for that poem of his that begins, “When you are old and grey and full of sleep,” and reminds its object that “one man loved the pilgrim soul in you.” It was the most romantic thing I’d ever read; how anyone could refuse this man was a mystery to me.

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Saturday Links

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A few links to get you started reading this Saturday morning. (I know it’s nice out, but I took my coffee out to my little backyard and am ignoring my cat’s mournful stares from the window, and encourage you to do so as well.)

At the Guardian, Tom Shone takes on the auteur theory — and its distinctly “male gaze.” “The carving up of the movies, a collaborative medium, into a series of solo acts, each bearing the unmistakeable imprint of an all-controlling “master”, most often male, is basically the great man theory of history transplanted into movie theatres – the swinging dick of film theories.” I hate balls metaphors but I hereby grant myself an exception to say that I respect the brass ones it takes to point this out.

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Is Optimism About the Future of “Serious” Publishing Possible?

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In the kind of defeated sigh about the future of books that is increasingly commonplace, Sarah Weinman, the news editor at Publisher’s Marketplace, argues that in the digital age there’s no room for “serious nonfiction.” The gist of her argument is familiar, the kind of thing we’ve been hearing for years: without “traditional” publishers there will be no large book advances for what she calls “prestige” work, like Robert Caro’s multi-volume LBJ biography.

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Literary Roommates

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I was sniffing around a rumor I’d heard about Saul Bellow and happened to come across this wonderful piece Bellow wrote about the time he and Ralph Ellison were roommates in a big old rambling mansion in upstate New York. To wit:

Ralph drove into Tivoli in his huge old Chrysler.

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Saturday Old Reads: Lady Journalists Edition

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I thought I’d write an essay for you today but naturally it’s not done because my allergies are clogging the old brain-machine. Besides you all probably want to read subjects that are not simply my inner monologue.

A couple of weeks ago the National Magazine Award nominees were announced, with few women included.

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The Sedaris Reading Diet

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I’m pretty sure my favourite part about this interview with David Sedaris is the writer he’d most like to meet: “[I]f I could go back in time, I’d love to collect kindling or iron a few shirts for Flannery O’Connor. After I’d finished, she’d offer to pay me, and I’d say, awe-struck, my voice high and quivering, that it was on me.” That’s not just because I like O’Connor too; it’s because having a humorist point to someone who writes black and bleak and maybe even depressing (if often mordantly funny) things makes me feel like there is some hope that I might one day actually be funny.

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