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Sorry for that outrageous bit of venting yesterday. As I’ve mentioned before, and I really mean it, I don’t enjoy writing about bad art, and I don’t enjoy trashing other people’s work. But I’d taken a short break from my own, run across that depressing bit of news about a book that I’d really, truly […]

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Continuing my impossible dream of reading every piece of fiction the world has ever considered important, I have given up once again on John Dos Passos, this time after about fifty of the fourteen hundred or so pages that make up the U.S.A. trilogy. The tragedy, for me, of Dos Passos is that some of […]

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That’s twenty-eight thousand, seven hundred and seven words, and that’s what the first draft of part one of the new novel has come to. It’s a relief to be able to say the draft is done, as it was moving really slowly there towards the end as the threads of the story were winding in […]

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In some ways, I wish I hadn’t read Strong Opinions, the volume of Nabokov interviews. Mostly, I guess, because he used to seem a lot more likable. The Nabokov of Speak, Memory, for instance, is a very engaging and clever intellectual with a hint of the raconteur. Not so the persona of the interviews. As […]

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When I was very young I had a thing for George Washington. Both Virginians, we were born precisely two hundred and twenty-nine years apart. I was most grateful for this latter circumstance, because until the disrespectful skunks in George’s own city combined his birthday with Lincoln’s and called the resulting compromise date Presidents’ Day, I […]

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It had been absolute donkey’s years since I’d read the 761pages of The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, published in 1750 by Henry Fielding and frequently praised ever since for, among other things, the intricate structure of the plot.  I had thoroughly enjoyed it back when I’d read it in my 18th century novel […]

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I used to find it almost impossible to start a book and not finish it.  You want to know how it turns out, right?  You don’t want to miss out on what may turn into a wonderful read.  Well, my new rule is that bad books don’t get better. Did I just say ‘bad?’  Surely […]

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If plot is such a troublesome creature, why don’t we just send it to the devil?  Well, because the existence of a story at all seems to imply that something happens. There was a Frenchman who wrote a novel without verbs a year or two ago.  Static.  Without movement, action, progression.  Descriptions, yes.  I didn’t […]

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Somehow I’ve survived another week of writing instruction.  My 3rd graders are enthusiastic and clever, but something usually seems to keep them from doing their homework.  My 5th graders, ditto.  Don’t ask about 4th grade. In one of Kerouac’s early novels he talks about meeting Neal Cassady, who latched onto Jack, begging him to teach […]

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Changing the rules is not by any means the only way to lose a reader.  Aldous Huxley, who is a masterly writer, does a textbook job of losing his reader twice in After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, a laugh-out-loud vivisection of California excess in the late 1930’s. The first hundred pages is a […]

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