“Fiction Isn’t Machinery, It’s Alchemy.”

Before I say a reluctant goodbye to Peter Orner's book, Am I Alone Here?, that has been such good company these past three days, I thought I'd share a few final quotes I marked in the book. Six are from Orner himself, and three are ones he fished from Frank O'Connor's book, The Lonely Voice (and …

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The Humbling Beauty in Reading-About-Reading Books

Every writer is a reader, and every reader indulges himself now and then in a good "reading about reading" book. This is where I'm at now as I amble through Peter Orner's Am I Alone Here? (The answer is, Clearly not, P.O.!) The thing about reading-about-reading books is how expensive they can be. No, I don't …

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Reading the New York Times’ “By the Book” Feature

One Sunday ritual I enjoy is reading The Book Review in the New York Times, where I can reliably find a feature called "By the Book." In this column, famous people (mostly authors, but sometimes actors, singers, artists, etc.) answer pre-submitted questions about their reading habits, prejudices, and insights. For me, "By the Book" is …

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“Stop Thinking with Your Fingers”

This Memorial Day weekend,  I've been poking around Robert Caro's new book, Working. In the introduction, I came across an interesting anecdote and a phrase I took a shining to. Caro (pictured above as a young man) talks about his Princeton days when he was taking a Creative Writing course with the literary critic and …

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When the News Kills the Muse

Sometimes it feels like you're faced with an everyday dilemma of rock or hard place, devil or deep blue sea, Scylla or Charybdis. You know what I'm talking about: poetry or citizenship. A steady diet of the news, it seems, is good for becoming an informed citizen (something all countries of the world need today, …

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Poems Inspired by Football

Did you know that Super Bowl Monday---the day following the N.F.L.'s championship game---is the most called-in sick day in the United States? Talk about the tail (football) wagging the dog (country)! As for those going to work, they will no doubt burn some water-cooler time discussing the merits of Super Bowl commercials, even to the point …

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“Lines Feeding on a Crust of Lamplight”

Yesterday morning, I wrote a "little poem." You won't find that in a glossary of poetry terms, of course, because "little" is fraught with multiple meanings. Think of a little apartment, for instance. For one prospective renter, it's "cramped," and for the next, it's "cozy." In the poetry world, the Kingdom of Little Poetry can …

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