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On the Thomas Pynchon Trail

“Now Pynchon hides in plain sight, on the Upper West Side, with a family and a history of contradictions: a child of the postwar Establishment determined to reject it; a postmodernist master who’s called himself a ‘classicist’; a workaholic stoner; a polymath who revels in dirty puns; a literary outsider who’s married to a literary agent; a scourge of capitalism who sent his son to private school and lives in a $1.7 million prewar classic six.”

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A Famous Man

On writer James Agee.

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Revenge of the Nerd

On the life of Ray Bradbury.

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The Autumn of Joan Didion

Didion’s genius is that she understands what it is to be a girl on the cusp of womanhood, in that fragile, fleeting, emotional time that she explored in a way no one else ever has. Didion is, depending on the reader’s point of view, either an extraordinarily introspective or an extraordinarily narcissistic writer. As such, she is very much like her readers themselves.
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The Power of Gabriel García Márquez

On Gabo and his complicated role in the country of his birth, Colombia.

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The Life and Death of Richard Brautigan

His friends remembered when Richard became famous. It was the year the hippies came to San Francisco. Richard had published one novel, A Confederate General from Big Sur, but it had sold miserably 743 copies and his publisher, Grove Press, had dropped its option on Trout Fishing in America. Donald Allen was the West Coast representative of Grove and the editor of the Evergreen Review, which had introduced the Beat Generation. Allen had a small nonprofit press called the Four Seasons Foundation, and he decided to publish the book himself. Allen sold 29,000 copies of the book before Delacorte bought it. Eventually, 2 million copies were sold. It was the kind of book that captured the spirit and sound of a generation. Soon there was a commune and an underground newspaper and even a school named after Trout Fishing in America. His short stories and poems appeared regularly in Rolling Stone, often beneath a photograph of him in his broad-brimmed hat. His face became a hippie icon. "For three or four years, he was like George Harrison walking down Haight Street," remembered Don Carpenter, a novelist and scriptwriter and a longtime friend of Richard's. His image infuriated what Richard called the East Coast literary mafia.
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Algren in Exile

On the unlikely friendship between Nelson Algren and the young writer during the final years of Algren’s life.

It was June of 1980 when Nelson called me breathlessly from the highway.