On Stumbling While Reading

Sometimes your reading runs aground. You read and read, moving on smoothly, even if not effortlessly, taking in the written word, perhaps admiring the art and craft on display, perhaps envying a competence and creativity beyond your own, and then, abruptly,  jarringly, there is no more purchase, no swell to lift the boat. You stareContinue reading “On Stumbling While Reading”

Stepping Up To The Plate For Another Fall Classic

Around mid-August or so, my normal ‘auto-chattering’–the monologues I have with myself as I walk around the streets of New York City–picked up pace. I began rehearsing dialogues with an imaginary audience, holding forth, declaiming, answering questions, parrying objections–the whole package. The reasons for this are not hard to find. The 2015 fall semester beginsContinue reading “Stepping Up To The Plate For Another Fall Classic”

Lorrie Moore’s ‘A Gate At The Stairs’ And An Implausible Grieving

There is much to like in Lorrie Moore‘s A Gate At The Stairs: there is Moore’s trademark dry humor, her dazzling vocabulary and eye for natural and urban detail, her exploration of weighty issues–race, adoption, gender, families, parenting–with a writerly touch that is deft and light in equal measure. But there is a crucial implausibilityContinue reading “Lorrie Moore’s ‘A Gate At The Stairs’ And An Implausible Grieving”

Fraternities: The Curse Of The Sylvan Campus

‘Fraternity’ used to be a perfectly good word–remember Liberté, égalité, fraternité? Used to be, when you saw that word in print, you thought of revolutionaries, the brotherhood of man, the formation of political and social bonds that spanned class and caste and creed. But then it was taken over by a bunch of drunken rapists-in-training,Continue reading “Fraternities: The Curse Of The Sylvan Campus”

A Grandmother’s Gift: A Curiously Significant Number

I’m a numbers nerd; in all probability, this stems from being a sports fan. I calculate sports statistics in my  head; I can effortlessly multiply any pair of two-digit numbers in that same location; I retain an astonishing number of odd numerical markers in my cranium. As such, some numbers acquire a significance that goesContinue reading “A Grandmother’s Gift: A Curiously Significant Number”

John Cheever On Computer Programming

In The Wapshot Chronicle (Harper and Row, New York, 1957), John Cheever writes: There was a demand that year for Tapers and he pointed this out to Coverly as his best bet. The government would pay half of Coverly’s tuition at the MacIlhenney Institute. It was a four-month course and if he passed his exams he wouldContinue reading “John Cheever On Computer Programming”

On Being Of Only Average Intelligence

Around the time that my teen years were to commence, I took an IQ test. My brother had stumbled upon one of HJ Eysenck‘s famous IQ books–it would have been either Know Your Own I.Q. (1962) or Check Your Own I.Q. (1966)–and after testing himself, insisted that I do so too. Intrigued by this mysteriousContinue reading “On Being Of Only Average Intelligence”

Hermione Lee On Wasting Nothing

The Art of Biography series of interviews at The Paris Review includes the following exchange between Hermione Lee and Louisa Thomas in No. 4: INTERVIEWER This is something you consistently look at—the ways in which a period that is commonly considered a dead period in a writer’s life feeds into their work. I’m thinking especially of Cather and herContinue reading “Hermione Lee On Wasting Nothing”

The Pleasures Of Anger

Anger is toxic, corrosive, and damaging; it is the poison we imbibe to hurt others. But like other substances described as ‘poisons’ anger is also intoxicating. As those who have ever felt ‘the red mist’ draw down over their eyes will readily testify, an outburst of anger is wholly controlling; a terrifying loss of self-control.Continue reading “The Pleasures Of Anger”

Kundera On Nostalgia For The Present

In Identity (HarperCollins, New York, 1998, pp. 40), Milan Kundera has Chantal thinking nostalgically about her love, Jean-Marc, but: Nostalgia? How could she feel nostalgia when he was right in front of her? How can you suffer from the absence of a person who is present? (Jean-Marc knew how to answer that: you can suffer nostalgiaContinue reading “Kundera On Nostalgia For The Present”