An essay on motivation.
“I think you are asking me, in the most tactful way possible, about my own aggression and malice. What can I do but plead guilty? I don’t know whether journalists are more aggressive and malicious than people in other professions. We are certainly not a ‘helping profession.’ If we help anyone, it is ourselves, to what our subjects don’t realize they are letting us take. I am hardly the first writer to have noticed the not-niceness of journalists. Tocqueville wrote about the despicableness of American journalists in Democracy in America. In Henry James’s satiric novel The Reverberator, a wonderful rascally journalist named George M. Flack appears. I am only one of many contributors to this critique. I am also not the only journalist contributor. Tom Wolfe and Joan Didion, for instance, have written on the subject. Of course, being aware of your rascality doesn’t excuse it.”
On literary mashups, double entendres, and questionable choices.
"Maybe you’ve heard of M__y Dick? I would bet you haven’t read it, and I bet I’d win that bet because I’d be leaving nothing up to chance. Here’s why: nobody has read M__y Dick. Scratch that. Nobody but me has read M__y Dick, because there’s only one copy in existence and it’s right here in my apartment, right here on this very desk I am writing to you from. That was the whole point. M__y Dick was just for me, for my own self-improvement. Of course, that didn’t stop them from talking about it, which was fine at first, and then it was not."
On George Plimpton and the founders of The Paris Review:
Early in the fifties another young generation of American expatriates in Paris became twenty-six years old, but they were not Sad Young Men, nor were they Lost; they were the witty, irreverent sons of a conquering nation.
Four dispatches from the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday:
In most places in the world, June 16 is just another day on the calendar, but here in Dublin, the day that James Joyce earmarked for Ulysses is celebrated with a fervor not seen here since the days of the druids when, if you really wanted to party, you needed a couple skeins of wine and a grove full of virgins.
A trip to the Famous Poets Society convention/contest in Reno.
“If you have read 6,000 books in your lifetime, or even 600, it’s probably because at some level you find “reality” a bit of a disappointment.”
In the Swiss town of Meiringen, where an obsessed group of ‘pilgrims’ painstakingly recreate the death of Sherlock Holmes.
Browsing the stacks with The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda.
An interview with Maurice Sendak.