Jonathan Franzen Is Really The Great American Essayist
He’s not the richest or the most famous. His characters don’t solve mysteries, have magical powers or live in the future…but he shows us the way we live now.
Lev Grossman wrote those words for the cover of the August 23, 2010 cover of Time magazine, calling Jonathan Franzen “the great American novelist.” In the midst of the great recession when most people were thinking about the economy, unemployment, and the sinking real estate market, America needed a hero and with the recent publication of Franzen’s fourth novel, Freedom, Time magazine found their guy but fell short of naming him “Man of the Year” for writing what most critics considered great literature. Read more
The Destiny Thief
The Destiny Thief is a collection of essays (9) on writing, writers, and life by Richard Russo. Readers may recognize Russo, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for Empire Falls and also wrote Nobody’s Fool and the follow-up Everybody’s Fool, Mohawk, The Risk Pool, Straight Man, The Whore’s Child, and That Old Cape Magic, but for those who have not read his works, the best way to describe Russo’s books is to say they are authentic, real, and so well written. So how did he do it? By living the life he was meant to live. Read more
You Play the Girl
Strategic girls manage perception; idealistic girls go up against the narrative, because it’s at the root of the problem, and they get crushed every time. ~Carina Chocano
When I was a young girl (maybe 12 or 13), I watched my mother get up early one Sunday morning and drive down to Walter’s Bakery (the local bakery known for their doughnuts, brownies, and New York-style streusel coffee cake) to buy a bag of glazed, powdered, and jelly doughnuts. She returned home, bag in hand and put the doughnuts on a plate and promptly delivered them upstairs to my five brothers who were in bed.
The problem with this extremely kind gesture is that it was Mother’s Day – that one day a year when fathers and kids are supposed to wait on mom, instead of the other way around. Even back then as a child I thought it was insane for a mother to bring her five sons fresh doughnuts in bed, especially on Mother’s Day. Where’s the justice? There wasn’t any…and that was the problem with growing up female in most homes in the 50’s, 60’s. and 70’s. Read more
10 Better Halloween Treats
Halloween is that one day of the year when it’s all about the candy from the moment the kids wake up to that serene moment when you tuck their sugar laden bodies into bed. Although most people have to go with the flow and tolerate their kids bringing bags of sugary candy (is there any other kind?) home, there are ways to work around the system and provide trick or treaters (and your kids) with a delicious treat that isn’t loaded with garbage. Read more
“What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures”
A lot of my process is informed by the notion that two mildly good stories put together sometimes equal one really good story.
What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell was published in 2009, although the 19 non-fiction essays included in the book were originally published in The New Yorker magazine where the author has been a staff writer since 1996.
Divided into three parts with three themes: obsessives, theories (ways of organizing experience), and the predictions we make about people, What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures is one of the most interesting contemporary collections of stories that anyone over the age of 40 can relate to without having to refer to Wikipedia for an explanation of events, characters, products, and businesses. Read more
“The Kraus Project”
Our Far Left may hate religion and think we coddle Israel, our Far Right may hate illegal immigrants and think we coddle black people, and nobody may know how the economy is supposed to work now that our manufacturing jobs have gone overseas, but the actual substance of our daily lives is total electronic distraction. We can’t face the real problems; we spent a trillion dollars not really solving a problem in Iraq that wasn’t really a problem; we can’t even agree on how to keep health care costs from devouring the GNP. What we can all agree to do instead is to deliver ourselves to the cool new media and technologies, to Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, and let them profit at our expense. Read more
The Short Sweet Life of Bessie
In Iowa most people are either growing food (corn, soybeans, wheat) or raising animals (cattle, pigs, chickens) or doing a bit of both on the farm. Russ and Beverly were both born and raised in central Iowa, marrying after high school and settling into a small place down the road from the farm where Russ spent his childhood. When Russ’s father passed away from cancer, Russ and Beverly moved back to the farm and took over the operation, allowing Russ’s mother to enjoy her grandchildren, bridge club, and church socials. Married nearly four decades, Russ and Beverly spent a lifetime growing corn and soybeans in the nutrient rich black soil and managing a small cattle operation on the remaining acreage. Read more
The Piano Tuner
Rain was pouring down from the skies causing mud puddles to turn into streams and parts of the dirt road to wash out. Still, Vlatko made his way down the mile-long driveway to the lone house on the lake. He parked the car, turned the ignition off and noticed the wipers stopped mid-way on the windshield as if his timing was slightly off. Vlatko always thought windshield wipers reminded him of a metronome, the tool musicians use to maintain a consistent tempo while playing music. Read more