Alice Munro's writing, like all great writing, teaches us to be human. It engages big questions in small spaces: What does it mean to be regional? What does it mean to be Canadian? What does it mean to be a mother? What does it mean to be betrayed?
Among the fictional characters we might want to avoid (if they somehow came to life) are murderers, liars, hypocrites, busybodies, racists, male chauvinists, militaristic men, rotten bosses, the money-obsessed and people who are just plain boring.
Murakami's books have for me served as a commentary on Gatsby. I read his work as if with a Gatsby divining rod, alert to allusions embedded in his narratives, which confirm my understanding of the classic.
But for some, for many just a bit older than I, there was really real programming in the form of The Dick Cavett Show: live television that featured the great literary and cultural personalities of the time.
Tackling Tolstoy was an emotional, as well as a financial investment. Even if you couldn't wade through the hefty prose, that beautiful hardback edition would display prominently on your oak bookshelf, right next to your edition of Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce.
These stories (I'm sure there are others) make vivid the embarrassments and fears of patients; their efforts to deal with deterioration, endure pain, and cope with unhinging and detachment. The reader, the viewer, and the re-reader can take cues from caregivers who ease the way to acceptance.
Some of the best novels have very believable protagonists, so it almost seems sort of/kind of possible to meet them. One of the pleasures of reading is immersing ourselves in a fictional world to the point where we can imagine being part of that world -- at least as a fly-on-the-wall.
Recently, Congress decided that cutting $40 billion from the food stamps program would be a good idea. After all, that budget works out to a whole couple of bucks a day for a portion of the 40+ million Americans living below the poverty line.
For a number of years, liking a novel by a certain author set me off on a binge of consecutively reading other books by the same author. It made sense. If you love one fictional work by an author, there's a good chance you'll at least like another.
A generation of children has now grown up with, and cherishes, this story of an intrepid, likeable little girl named Coraline Jones, at the end of her summer school holidays in East Sussex, not so long ago.
hen the world lost Seamus Heaney, so departed among its most glorious of voices. While the gift of his written voice will continue to live on indefinitely, the expressively inspiring tones of the poet's physical sound have sadly been extinguished.
For bestselling author T.C. Boyle, writing is both an obsessive-compulsive behavior and the highest thing he can aspire to. He talked with Max Tholl to discuss the educative purpose of art, teaching creativity and the deepest desires of human nature.
His family and friends are in mourning for Seamus Heaney, who died in Dublin on August 30. They are joined by a world of acquaintances and admirers, both known and unknown to Heaney himself, whose grieving is for the poet and the man -- if those could be separated.
Stephen Burt and I discussed the instructive and useful nature of poetry: how it's a vehicle for self-expression, a valuable means of understanding the world and a resource that is written for an infinite set of audiences.
Maybe a block or so away from Paramount Pictures, deep in Hollywood, there's a short alley, La Vista Court, which is a real nexus of California bohemianism. It contains an unusual building with a bas relief of the great, bohemian writer Jack London.
Alan Kaufman, the Bronx-born son of a French-Jewish Holocaust survivor, is author of the critically acclaimed memoirs Jew Boy and Drunken Angel. Kaufman's writings are subversive articulations of extreme outsiderness.