“I’m sick of people (cough, cough, Elif Batuman, cough) talking shit about MFAs, people who love to compare whatever dead author they’re drooling over these days — you know, someone like Stendhal — to the latest batch of contemporary novelists. Enough about how school poisons genius, about how the workshop makes robots of us all! Enough with the ignorant blanket statements! Some writers with MFAs are great, and some aren’t; the same can be said for writers without MFAs.”—Edan Lepucki.
“So rather than create simple works of historical fiction, fashioning narratives set solely in war-ravaged Europe, Ullman, like Chabon and Foer, has ushered in a fecund new phase of Holocaust fiction. It is not only necessary that we try to recapture the morally-starved world of the actual Holocaust — something Ullman has done extraordinarily well — but that we take up the question of how much that bleak history should define our present-day lives.”—Eric Herschthal, reviewingEllen Ullman’s By Blood.
“As I said, I’m reading War and Peace on my iPhone. But you can’t tell I’m reading War and Peace on my iPhone. When I take my kids to the park and they’re off playing while I’m reading War and Peace, I look like just some fatuous idiot reading his email”—Clive Thomsen, in this great interview on POD publishing, e-reading devices, and the future of reading.
“The spelling bee is on TV tonight
and the kids of today are showing
proudly, awkwardly, what they know.
What they know is the next letter
and, somehow, the next and the next.
This is impractical beauty, magic…”—From “Definition" by Rob MacDonald
“I opened the book and found that to read Joe Brainard is to befriend him. The Collected Writings is like a manual for how to live more creatively. It bubbles over with deeply personal vision and a contagious passion for the smallest things in life — what Brainard calls ‘my faith that everything is interesting, sooner or later.’”—The Zen of Joe Brainard: On The Collected Writings by John Lingan
“The abduction of Dr. Dieter Krombach began in the village of Scheidegg, in southern Germany. His three kidnappers punched him in the face, tied him up, gagged him, and threw him in the back of their car. They drove 150 miles, crossing the border into the Alsace region of France, with Krombach stretched out on the floor between the seats. The car stopped in the town of Mulhouse. An accomplice called the local police and stayed on the line just long enough to deliver a bizarre instruction: ‘Go to the rue de Tilleul, across from the customs office,’ the anonymous caller said. ‘You’ll find a man tied up.’ A few minutes later, two police cars arrived at the scene, their red and blue patrol lights illuminating the street. Behind an iron gate, in a dingy courtyard between two four-story buildings, Krombach lay on the ground. His hands and feet were bound and his mouth was gagged. He was roughed up but very much alive. When the police removed the covering from his mouth, the first thing he said was ‘Bamberski is behind it.’”—
“It will not be simple, it will not take long
It will take little time, it will take all your thought
It will take all your heart, it will take all your breath
It will be short, it will not be simple
It will touch through your ribs, it will take all your heart
It will not take long, it will occupy all your thought
As a city is occupied, as a bed is occupied
It will take your flesh, it will not be simple
You are coming into us who cannot withstand you
You are coming into us who never wanted to withstand you
You are taking parts of us into places never planned
You are going far away with pieces of our lives
“Titles have a way of coming in waves. There was a time a few years back when it seemed like vast numbers of books were being published on the subject of secret lives, as in THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES, THE SECRET LIFE OF BUILDINGS, THE SECRET LIVES OF WORDS, etc. Our literature seems to hold a parallel obsession with vanishing, which involves of course any number of titles involving the words “Disappear” or “Vanishing” or “Lost.”
But no trend that I’ve ever noticed has seemed quite so pervasive as the daughter phenomenon. Seriously, once you start noticing them, they’re everywhere. A recent issue of Shelf Awareness had ads for both THE SAUSAGE MAKER’S DAUGHTERS and THE WITCH’S DAUGHTER. I’m Facebook friends with the authors of THE HUMMINGBIRD’S DAUGHTER, THE BAKER’S DAUGHTER, THE CALLIGRAPHER’S DAUGHTER, and THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTER, and those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.”—The ___’s Daughter by Emily St. John Mandel
“JESSE MONTGOMERY: Well, I’m sure it’ll be better than Romanian YouTube. That was a struggle.
GEOFF DYER: Yeah, as I say in the book, this was a film that has to be seen properly projected, and that seems to me to be part of what it’s about. It’s about the wonder of cinematic space, and time is manifest in that, blah, blah, blah. You know — all that Tarkovsky bollocks!”—Full Stop's Jesse Montgomery interviews Geoff Dyer
“Dating back to my indie bookstore days (Book Soup in West Hollywood), I’ve been a big proponent of what I call the “trusted fellow reader.” It used to be you could only find these trusted fellow readers working at and/or hanging out at your local independent bookstore. They’re still there, but now they’re also online. If you keep an eye out, you’ll find out about lots of exciting books as they start to bubble up, and ideally you’ll find some hidden gems that aren’t getting the big publicity push.”—Millions editor-in-chief C. Max Mageegets into the booth for the zombie round in The Morning News' Tournament of Books.
“The child comes home and the parent puts the hooks in him. The old man, or the woman, as the case may be, hasn’t got anything to say to the child. All he wants is to have that child sit in a chair for a couple of hours and then go off to bed under the same roof. It’s not love. I am not saying that there is not such a thing as love. I am merely pointing to something which is different from love but which sometimes goes by the name of love. It may well be that without this thing which I am talking about there would not be any love. But this thing in itself is not love. It is just something in the blood. It is a kind of blood greed, and it is the fate of a man. It is the thing which man has which distinguishes him from the happy brute creation. When you got born your father and mother lost something out of themselves, and they are going to bust a ham trying to get it back, and you are it. They know they can’t get it all back but they will get as big a chunk out of you as they can. And the good old family reunion, with picnic dinner under the maples, is very much like diving into the octopus tank at the aquarium.”—All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
“Secrets are at the heart of Mad Men. All of the principle characters harbor them. Sometimes they come out, and sometimes not. In keeping with this air of obfuscation, the writers have crafted a style of dialogue that is suitably obtuse, and occasionally impenetrable. I think part of the show’s popularity has to do with the fact that it demands such scrutiny if the viewer is going to pick up on all the nuances.”—Noah Deutsch, “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Men World”
Toward the end of “Tomorrowland,” the final episode of the fourth season of AMC’s Mad Men, Don Draper (the girl-, booze-, and epiphany-hound played to the nines by Jon Hamm) gazes with rapt wonder into the eyes of his newest lover. Something of a cut-to-the-chase lothario until this point, Draper’s googly candor is a bit surprising as he lays his heart on the bedsheet. “Did you ever think,” he says, “of the number of things that had to happen for me to get to know you? But everything happened, and it got me here. What does that mean?” Hamm utters these lines in the kind of tremulous whisper-shout normally reserved for stoners commenting on double rainbows. But it’s not just love that has Draper so high, or at least not only love. Don Draper, in this scene, is amazed by the sheer happenstance complexity of the events leading up to this new relationship. In the context of Draper’s life, it’s a romantic speech about the magical workings of fate. In the context of Mad Men, however, it’s a romantic speech about the magical workings, and plottings, of serial television.
Mad Men, in addition to being an abundantly detailed, almost classically composed piece of historical fiction and a genuinely ambivalent critique of consumer culture, is also an intriguing meditation on narrative itself.
“Most of my comrades arrived in similar states of disrepair. We did our best to conceal the worst of it, to play the part of eager newbies grateful for the opportunity to hone what we referred to majestically as “our craft.” But the crazy inevitably surfaced, under the aegis of booze or pot or some brisker narcotic. After parties, we stumbled into the night howling songs of loneliness and sorrow. At least I did.”—Steve Almond, “Why Talk Therapy is on the Wane and Writing Workshops are on the Rise”
“Scientific truth is messy. I’m proud of my articles that have attempted to document the ambiguity inherent in claims of empirical fact. (In fact, I’ve received plenty of criticism from scientists for these pieces.) But I stand by my descriptions of the science in Imagine.”—Jonah Lehrer, in response to The Millions review of Imagine.