Did your MFA program offer impractical courses like “Problems in Modern Fiction”? At the Ploughshares blog, Rebecca Makkai offers some suggestions for more useful classes, such as “Introduction to Despair,” “Pretending You’re Talking to Terry Gross When You’re Alone in the Car,” and “The Art of the Flirty Author Photo Grimace.” Pair with: Our interview with Makkai.
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.
Nic has found a mirror. He looks into his own eyes and does not smile. Moments later he averts them, then lets them creep back up to meet themselves. ‘As a creator, you always have one eye on the back of the room, where you know they’re loading their guns and building your gallows,’ he says, lightly punching the reflection of his own fist.
PURCHASE: Dinner for two at Junoon
NOTE: This was the day we got the royalty check and was our first “fancy dinner” out in two years. To quote Brian: “Happy anniversary, birthday, and book contract day.”
WOULD STEPHEN KING LIKE IT: Junoon is in a publishing neighborhood so it’s quite possible he’s been there. Also, what sane person wouldn’t like deep fried paneer?
What do you do when Stephen King uses the same title on one of his books as you used on yours (which came out earlier)? You reap the rewards of mistaken Amazon purchases, and you document the spoils of those royalty checks.
Truth be told, there were a number of regrettable omissions. Beyoncé and Jay Z’s piece ‘Bomber’ had to be left off the album. (‘Driver of this plane, this / B-52 on the way to Nagasaki / Stuff your ears with cotton and / Close those eyes / Me and my man are about to do it all over this / Here bomb’).
Is this skyscraper autobiographical?
Caveat Emptor is a kind of shaggy dog story in dialog with a well-known masterpiece from the Western Canon. It begins with a shocking thing happening to a nondescript man. After this explosive occurrence, a series of other things proceed to happen with depressing predictability. Meanwhile, other characters do things to themselves and to others before everything culminates in one big anti-climactic event that nonetheless changes things forever. A more competent author (and indeed a more considerate human being) would surely have ordered things differently and dug deeper into the various political, social and economic implications so clearly lurking in every twist and turn I’ve outlined above.
“I just want to be normal,” she said, even though she had amazing powers and a super-family and was mega-gorgeous and better than normal in every way and the entire book would be terrible if she were normal and she had no conception of what normal was to begin with.