“Walter Benjamin would have loved this guy Tom Knox. In our age of mechanical reproduction, for starters, Tom Knox is an immaculate work of artifice. He keeps cranking out books even though he doesn’t exist. Tom Knox, you see, is the pen name for Sean Thomas, a peripatetic British novelist, journalist, blogger, and travel writer. What’s more, The Babylon Rite, the fourth novel by ‘Tom Knox,’ works overtime to live up to Benjamin’s dictum that all great works of literature must either dissolve a genre or invent one.”
And so despite my esteem for the high challenge of writing, for the reach of the writerly life, it’s not something anyone actually wants me to do. The American mind has made that very clear, it has said: ‘Be a specialised something — fill your head with the zeitgeist, with the technical — and we’ll write your ticket.’
In Virginia Woolf’s terms, Oates has put as much of her art down on the page as possible, has expressed herself completely, achieving ‘the prodigious effort of freeing whole and entire’ the work that is in her.
“Alien-themed butler trays! Shocking mergers! Bizarrely profitable weight-loss products! Yes, SkyMall’s business story is as wild and wide-ranging as its offerings.”
“Over the years, I stared at her whenever I got the chance, drawn by the way a room’s energy inevitably centered on her. She had thick grey hair, chopped short, in which she was always losing her hands. She could silence a room with those hands. I witnessed countless moments when she would interrupt someone then outline the ways in which that person was very, very wrong. And I found myself feeling both admiration and sympathy for those who had been silenced.” Karen Shepard remembers her grandmother.
Jim Agee: tall, darkly handsome. Prematurely melancholy in a manner both pretentious seeming and deeply real. A great talker, a great (which is to say, bad) drinker, an expert at accentuating or cloaking his southern roots, as occasion demanded. Possessed of as much talent—if by ‘talent’ we mean sheer wattage of verbal combination—as anyone in his generation, a talent that he was on his way either to wasting, if you hold with his latter-day detractors, or to fulfilling, in some necessarily fractured way.
“The chef’s name, an alias, is Kenji Fujimoto, and for eleven years he was Kim Jong-il’s personal chef, court jester, and sidekick. He had seen the palaces, ridden the white stallions, smoked the Cuban cigars, and watched as, one by one, the people around him disappeared. It was part of Fujimoto’s job to fly North Korean jets around the world to procure dinner-party ingredients—to Iran for caviar, Tokyo for fish, or Denmark for beer. It was Fujimoto who flew to France to supply the Dear Leader’s yearly $700,000 cognac habit. And when the Dear Leader craved McDonald’s, it was Fujimoto who was dispatched to Beijing for an order of Big Macs to go.”