Posts Tagged: The Millions

A “Girl” and Her Mother

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At The Millions, Naa Baako Ako-Adjei discusses reading Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” through the lens of her relationship with her own mother growing up, and her new understanding of the story fifteen years later:

In my rereading of “Girl,” I also realized that I never noticed how transgressive the story is.

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Elena Ferrante and the Picture on the Back Cover

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Essayist Marie Myung-Ok Lee’s obsession with author photos leads to authorial reflections on gender, representation, and what writers owe the public in “Occupy Author Photo: On Elena Ferrante, Privacy, and Women Writers” at The Millions. Starting with her own experiences and branching out to Mary Oliver, Sarah Howe, and eventually Elena Ferrante, she calls for a rethinking of the author photo and its social implications.

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Structure as Lightning Rod

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Writing for The Millions, M.C. Mah turns over all the cards in the deck on structure in storytelling. He gathers words of wisdom—and many metaphors—from luminaries like John McPhee, Borges, Vonnegut, and George Saunders, and then links the contemporary “horoscopic style” of structuring to an “anxiety about a better way to tell a story…” possibly “synonymous with aiming for the cheap seats of genre.”

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From Reading to Reading

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Over at The Millions, Alex Lockwood shares what he learned from reading and readings during his first American book tour:

I packed The Wave in the Mind into my luggage as I set out from Britain for North America. Not least because I’d be visiting Portland, Ore., Le Guin’s home city; and not only because 35 percent minimum of my carry-on is reading material; but as an unknown British writer, I needed to holdfast to Le Guin’s promise for my 12-events-in-seven-cities first book tour: people come!

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It Was a Joke

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In an essay on author authenticity for The Millions, Alcy Levy examines Percival Everett’s satirical novel Erasure—about a black author whose own satirical novel is taken seriously—in light of recent literary identity shake-ups such as James Frey and Michael Derrick Hudson, who changed his name to Yi-Fen Chou to get a poem published:

This exposes a major flaw in artistic perception in publishing.

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Ragtime and the Mysterious Teenage Highlighter

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At The Millions, Jacob Lambert shares a letter written to an unknown teenager who annotated and “ruined” his secondhand copy of Ragtime. Lambert expresses bewilderment over the passages that the teenager highlighted, and provides his own insights in response:

Chapter three ends with the sentence “And up through the slum alleys, through the gray clothes hanging listlessly on lines strung across air shafts, rose the smell of fried fish.” A highly evocative passage, seemingly straightforward enough.

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A Brief Relationship with Writing

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At The Millions, Bryan VanDyke reflects on his experience writing several unpublished novels, and how these manuscripts helped motivate him to write the draft of his first published work in less than a week:

My grad school mentor, the brooding and kind-hearted author David Plante, would sometimes refer to unsuccessful books as “one more for the river.” As a student in his twenties with a chartless ocean of writing challenges ahead, this metaphor made me uneasy because I so desperately wanted to arrive somewhere with my work.

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How to Write Wilderness

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At The Millions, Mary Catherine Martin responds to the flaws she found in Dave Eggers’s representation of the Alaskan wilderness in his most recent novel, Heroes of the Frontier. She explains why writers who “write wilderness” have a responsibility to understand the great outdoors before putting pen to paper:

If there’s anything wilderness can teach you, it’s the dizzying breadth of what you do not know, and if what you write is to resonate as true there is no lesson more important.

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The Desire for Distraction

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For The Millions, Mike Broida revisits David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, arguing that the work’s claims about addiction and the media presaged the influence of “television culture” on the digital age:

The final “joke” of Infinite Jest is that the book is intended to be almost as endless and mirthful as the addictions it depicts.

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Writers Who Burn Their Own Work

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We burn old love letters and photographs to be reborn. The action of burning is often a process. Find a match or a lighter. Put the papers in a container or can or shove them in a fireplace. There are so many moments along the way when we can have second thoughts, when we can decide to put memories in a drawer rather than reduce them to ash, but it is so tempting and comforting to watch the flames swallow our pain.

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Literary Cage Match

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At The Millions, Jonathan Gottschall compares his experience learning to cage fight with the struggles of being a writer, as “the writing game, like the fighting game, mostly ends in breakage”:

Literary history is a history of victors. So stories about the struggles of well-known writers almost always follow the comforting arc of suffering redeemed.

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Unstuck in Time

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Despite its uncanny salience in the context of this most recent wave of social injustice and protest, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout was written well before the #BlackLivesMatter movement began. Far from a coincidence, the book’s resonance is a product of the same paradox of time it describes, in which dated social conditions cannot possibly continue to exist, yet do:

All of the characters, regardless of how completely absurd they seem, are reacting to living in a time in which Beatty also resides; one in which he is daring to call something “‘Racism’ in a post-racial world.”

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A Bigger Wall

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Yesterday, The Millions featured an exclusive “essay” from a certain Republican presidential hopeful about his plan to make Western literature great again:

We’re going to take back the Western canon, folks. We are going to build a big beautiful wall around books written by white people and we’re going to make the immigrants and the African-American writers pay for it.

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