James Wood, a book reviewer worthy of being reviewed

Do you have a favorite book reviewer? Whenever I read a book review by James Wood in the New Yorker, I find myself marveling over Wood's writing. He can impart the feel of a work through an inspired metaphor or a vivid phrase. He manages to say in a single sentence what another reviewer might … Continue reading James Wood, a book reviewer worthy of being reviewed

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Beautiful advice to an aspiring writer

One of the most arresting and affecting books I've ever read is Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. It's a collection of advice columns that she wrote anonymously for an online magazine years ago, before she wrote Wild and deservedly achieved fame. She signed her advice as "Sugar," and her column became known as "Dear Sugar." … Continue reading Beautiful advice to an aspiring writer

The tragic story behind the Magnitsky Act

A dispatch from the era of alternative facts...  This week, I've been reading Congressional testimony.  (I should point out -- something I don't normally do. Desperate times.) With everything on Russia swirling around, we've heard by now about the Magnitsky Act -- which is often mentioned in the same breath as Russian adoptions. News articles … Continue reading The tragic story behind the Magnitsky Act

A salty take on F. Scott Fitzgerald in a 1945 New York Times article

Speaking of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and his delicate and moving personal essay The Crack-Up... I unearthed a 1945 book review on the collection of Fitzgerald writings of the same name, that had just been published. The review is by a one William Du Bois, who thought Fitzgerald was more or less a useless, immature, pretty-boy hack … Continue reading A salty take on F. Scott Fitzgerald in a 1945 New York Times article

The best personal essay I’ve ever read was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1936

I thought I knew F. Scott Fitzgerald because I'd read The Great Gatsby, discarded Tender Is the Night, and heard Hemingway tell how drunk he would get in Paris. I did not know F. Scott Fitzgerald. One day, a writer friend told me Fitzgerald is one of his favorite writers. "Why?" I asked. He told … Continue reading The best personal essay I’ve ever read was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1936

A quotation by Montesquieu befitting a cynical, troubled, witty woman

This epigraph in Price of Fame: The Honorable Clare Boothe Luce is cynical and so damn depressing and, let's admit, pretty spot on for the human species: If we only wanted to be happy it would be easy. But we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult, since we think them happier … Continue reading A quotation by Montesquieu befitting a cynical, troubled, witty woman

A well-told (true) tale of a raving madman’s dark suspicions

The most entertaining thing I read this week was also the hottest topic on cable news. A surprising overlap. Ryan Lizza is The New Yorker's Washington correspondent, and anyone following politics or circuses is aware of his already-infamous call with Anthony Scaramucci (also goes by: Mooch; The White House Communications Director). What Mooch said to … Continue reading A well-told (true) tale of a raving madman’s dark suspicions