"It helped that I could measure my progress with metrics like number of scabs collected, number of inches ollied. There was an objective truth to the sport; unlike my writing, my powerslides were self-validating. At home, a printout of my manuscript lay untouched on my desk."
One lie I tell is that we care, generally—human beings—about each other. We could not, I tell myself in the moments just before the night’s dark hour, create The Odyssey or King Lear or Thomas and Beulah without a profound sense of The Other. Surely, were it true this thing’s a joke, nothing more, and a cruel one at that, we’d have no Dickinson, no Yeats, no freakin’ Rumi, read by Bly, loud on an old tape deck while I shower.
In the mid-90s, David Foster Wallace published a scathing review of a John Updike novel, Toward the End of Time, that became a key text for critics of the celebrated author. Now, at The New Republic, David Baddiel argues that Updike gets a bad rap, while Jeffrey Meyers backs up DFW’s position. It might also be a good time to read James Santel’s review of Updike’s Collected Stories.
Despite the “grotesquerie of courtship rituals” they present, Roxane Gay enjoys watching The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, in part because, as she explains, they hearken back to America’s Puritan origins. In The New York Times, the essayist, novelist and Year in Reading alum reflects on a guilty pleasure.
For a while, shortly after I finished an undergraduate creative writing course, everything I wrote started with an observation or a realization…I was going to be an essayist, and it was going to be awesome.
Now, I’m not going to lie. It’s annoying, to have to take time out of my incredibly busy writing schedule in order to spell it all out for young people, just because they spend most of their daylight hours being urged by hoary old theorists in threadbare sweaters to write experimental fiction that will never sell. But I care deeply about the young—all of them, the world’s young—so of course I am humbled and honored to share the trade secrets embedded in my rigorous daily work schedule.
Why do great books we read as children have a more profound effect on us than great books we read as adults? It’s hard to say, but YA novelist Anne Cardi comes up with a number of reasons, among them the ability of children’s books to permanently change our viewpoints. (FYI, weasked a bunch of teenagers to recommend last year’s best YA novels.)