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
“We are, in the end, a sum of our parts, and when the body fails, all the virtues we hold dear go with it.” -Susannah Cahalan, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, written by New York Post journalist Susannah Cahalan, is a page-turning account about Cahalan’s experience … Continue reading The Sum of Our Parts: Brain on Fire Book Review
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:
Reading Les Miserables is a serious commitment. Even if you’re a fast reader, it’s going to take a long time. At the same time, when you finish it, you’ll feel like it could have gone on forever. Like it should have gone on forever. When I read Les Miserables, it helped me realize a few things about writing … Continue reading 5 Things Les Miserables Taught Me About Writing
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,” 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
Do you ever get the feeling that someone who doesn’t even know you is speaking directly to you? That’s the feeling I got when I watched Meg Jay’s TED Talk called “Why 30 is Not the New 20.” What she says in her talk is valuable for all ages– not just 20-somethings. Her message is … Continue reading On Becoming a Writer– plus, Cheryl Strayed.
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?
In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard writes about stalking muskrats. As she relates, muskrats are particularly elusive creatures. After seeing a muskrat for the first time, she waits and watches for a second one, even though she feels like the muskrat sighting might have just been a stroke of luck: I began to look for … Continue reading You Must Just Have to Be There
“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