The Life-Changing Magic of Questioning Yourself on a Regular Basis

Someone once told me that the state of one’s room reflects the state of that person’s mind. The other day, I remembered this when I looked at how messy my apartment had become – the stacks of books collecting dust, clothes that I never wore and the souvenirs from various events and conferences I didn’t know what to do … Continue reading The Life-Changing Magic of Questioning Yourself on a Regular Basis

My Recent Jonathan Franzen Obsession: Thoughts on Farther Away, The Corrections, and Freedom

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Reading a Jonathan Franzen novel makes a voyeur out of everyone. You get a bird’s eye view of a dysfunctional-yet-loving family, and you get to see them mess up. Repeatedly. The parents make parenting mistakes, the kids squander opportunities and ignore their parents, disconnections widen, and alliances shift. In many ways, Franzen’s stories are incredibly ambitious; he covers lifetimes of bad decisions and turns a critical eye towards capitalism, fraud, and selfishness. He portrays the struggle of families trying to keep up appearances while everything around them is falling apart. But in another way, Franzen’s stories are variations on a very familiar narrative of the unhappy family. It’s his writing style that elevates this pedestrian storyline to something more.

Here are a few things that make Jonathan Franzen’s work so fascinating to me:

(Spoilers Ahead)

Continue reading “My Recent Jonathan Franzen Obsession: Thoughts on Farther Away, The Corrections, and Freedom”

Secrets as Tools of Connection: Thoughts on Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Dave Egger’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, a frenetic, darkly humorous, and tragic memoir, is a story about rebuilding. After both of his parents die when he is twenty-one, Dave is charged with caring for Toph, his precocious 7-year-old brother. He and Toph move to Berkeley where Dave starts a magazine and auditions for … Continue reading Secrets as Tools of Connection: Thoughts on Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Butt in Chair

“Butt in chair,” experts say. Be persistent. But maybe you’re starting to hate your novel. You have dark, escapist thoughts. You’re not feeling particularly pure of heart, nor steadfast of butt. From “Novelists, You’re Doing it Right” on the Ploughshares blog by Rebecca Meacham. Continue reading Butt in Chair

Are Writers Fragile?

MARTIN: You write in the book that the job of an editor is much like that of a therapist. That struck me. Are writers that fragile? MENAKER: Well, I think when they’re writers – when they’re actually acting as writers – they tend to be pretty transferential to their editors. You put yourself out on … Continue reading Are Writers Fragile?

6,000 Extra Pieces

“Working out the structure is the hardest part, because there are a thousand ways to tell a story. It’s sort of like putting together an 8,000-piece puzzle and there are 6,000 extra pieces and you’re not sure what the puzzle is supposed to look like until you’re halfway there.” -Allie Brosh in an interview with … Continue reading 6,000 Extra Pieces