Reading, Writing, and Publishing

The Red Ring and the Wrecking Ball

On Yu Miri

Every two years, when the Olympic institution plants its flag in a new city, speculators from metropolitan Lausanne meet with profiteers in the new athletic colony. They hover over the city map with carving knives, repurposing public spaces and re-zoning residences. Together, for the sake of a two-week event, they take over the territory, line their pockets with public resources, bring in outside workers, and push long-established locals aside.

On Janet Malcolm

On Janet Malcolm

From that point on she was fully formed, and she could write about whatever she liked

When I read In the Freud Archives for the first time, I understood myself to be looking for facts, dates, quotations—material. The material was there, and like a good nonfiction writer I dutifully underlined and annotated, but I also found that the particulars of the story she told had difficulty competing with the writing she used to tell it.

The Afterlife

Revisiting Roth’s promise

My own sense of Roth is that the motive behind his books, his drive and ambition as a writer, has everything to do with his unceasing energy as a seducer—a seducer of readers as well as of living people, friends and lovers. One might argue, again, that the intimate connection between eros and the desire to communicate with readers is true of many writers—but in Roth’s case I wonder if he might have been a better writer, certainly a freer one, if he had been able to unknot the two impulses a bit more.

Why I Write Novels

Why I Write Novels

Is it from your life? Did this really happen?

To me, a sentence that serves as a purely functional join in the syntax of the novel, like “They drove towards the building,” is as much hard work, and requires as much attentiveness, as a sentence like this one from Afternoon Raag, my second novel, in which the narrator is describing his mother’s hair: “It falls in long, black strands, but each strand has a gentle, complicated undulation travelling through it, like a mild electric shock or a thrill, that gives it a life of its own; it is visually analogous to a tremolo on a musical note.” I don’t consider “They drove towards the building” easier to write than that sentence from Afternoon Raag. If anything, it’s more difficult.