Tag: writing

  • The Audacity of Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroads

    The Audacity of Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroads

    It’s hard to know where to start when talking about Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Crossroads. Do you start with the audacity? Franzen ripping across the page, delving into the minds of female and Native American characters with abandon and heedless of the caution so much of contemporary literature has fallen prey to? How about the […]

  • Annie Dillard’s Writing Life

    Annie Dillard’s Writing Life

    It’s hard for me to overstate how much of an influence Annie Dillard has been on me over the years. A short story about weasels in her essay collection Teaching a Stone to Talk is a big part of my call story. The one about a man pursuing her as a child through the snow […]

  • Reading The Sound and the Fury in 2020

    Reading The Sound and the Fury in 2020

    In 1929, William Faulkner had a keen sense that it was all falling in of its own weight. When he published The Sound and the Fury, now recognized as an American classic, it confused folks more than wowed them. The first section, written from the perspective of Benjy Compson, the intellectually-challenged son of a white […]

  • Belated Reviews: Willie Morris’s North Toward Home

    Belated Reviews: Willie Morris’s North Toward Home

    “I think he got parvo. I think he picked it up out the dirt.” …”Maybe he just sick, Skeet.” “What if it’s in the dirt? What if the rest of them get infected?” —Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward It took some chutzpah for Willie Morris, at the age of roughly 33, to believe that his […]

  • Deep Ellum B.C.: Anti-Semitism at the Table

    Deep Ellum B.C.: Anti-Semitism at the Table

    The great Streetlight magazine has a new essay of mine up on their blog today. “Deep Ellum B.C.” hits all your favorite topics: Book stores, writing groups, and anti-Semitism. Enjoy. –Alex

  • The Not-So-Calm Before the Storm: Jesmyn Ward’s Katrina Story

    The Not-So-Calm Before the Storm: Jesmyn Ward’s Katrina Story

    Katrina doesn’t arrive until Salvage the Bones is almost over, but the hurricane has always been coming. She broods over the whole of Jesmyn Ward’s epic 2011 novel, even when the only one who seems to know she’s on the way is Esch’s Daddy, whose preparations seem excessive to his four children living with him […]

  • A New Style Guide for Word Lovers: Dreyer’s Droll Diversion

    A New Style Guide for Word Lovers: Dreyer’s Droll Diversion

    It sounds like faint praise to say that a book is diverting. We want our books to be gripping, engrossing, un-put-down-able. Or, if the tome in question is a reference book, we’d prefer that it be reliable, comprehensive, and comprehensible. Sorry. Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style meets none of those […]

  • So You Want to Write Poetry…

    So You Want to Write Poetry…

    Come for the instruction in how to write poems. Stay for the poetry that flows from Mary Oliver like an undiminished spring. “Poetry is a life-cherishing force. And it requires a vision—a faith, to use an old-fashioned term. Yes, indeed. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down […]

  • How a Mississippi Man’s Struggles with Weight Tell the Truth about America

    How a Mississippi Man’s Struggles with Weight Tell the Truth about America

    “America understands itself as God’s handiwork, but the black body is the clearest evidence that America is the work of men.”  —Ta-Nehasi Coates, Between the World and Me I confess that I picked up Heavy, Kiese Laymon’s staggering memoir about growing up bright and black in Mississippi, with more than a little curiosity about the obesity […]

  • #4 Heartlands Best Reads of 2018: He Held Radical Light

    #4 Heartlands Best Reads of 2018: He Held Radical Light

    Christian Wiman’s He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art might qualify as the most beautiful book I read all year. Wiman wrote a memoir that reminded me about the compelling nature of calling and vocation, not only for the poets he so clearly loves, but for every person of faith. There’s […]