A Lesson from Doggerel

I’m no poet, and I know it. (That rhyme and meter, right there, is me stretching my poetic talents, rubber band-like, as far as they go; any farther and I’d risk putting my eye out.) But I’ve occasionally written doggerel for the blog site The Last Word on Nothing as...

The Invention of Meaning; the Meaning of Invention

By now, you’ve probably heard about author Naomi Wolf’s fateful radio interview on the BBC. Perhaps you’ve heard the interview itself, though if not, you might want to skip it—especially if you’re a writer in any genre and you’ve ever had to cite a fact. Any fact....

What We Talk About When We Talk About Craft

If you were a writer or a reader of a certain age—say, under 30, or even 40—in the early 1980s, and you were interested in short stories, Raymond Carver was a constant topic of discussion. He was the most prominent representative of a style that was also a constant topic of discussion. It was commonly called minimalism, though I always preferred the term miniaturism. “Minimalism” suggested minimalizing, whereas, at least in my interpretation, the power of the style was to reveal a new world, only in miniature. It relied on contrasts: the lean text and the rich subtext, the surface cool hiding a kind of hellfire, the emotional distance that, seemingly paradoxically, suggests a raw-to-the-marrow fear. In short (or miniature): complex effects through the fewest strokes.

What’s in a Title

I’m finishing a book at the moment, and I recently discovered that I hate a chapter title. Hate it. Loathe it. Despise it. Hate hate hate it. Were it alive, I would kill it, then do everything in my power to bring it back to life, just so I could kill it again.

You Talking to Me in Annotations?

At this past residency in Vermont, a few faculty members were sitting around before a meeting, talking about nothing in particular, and then one of us, for whatever reason that made sense in the moment, was describing a scene in a Martin Scorsese movie. Maybe Casino;...
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