October 17, 2013 |
Boston was a rough-and-tumble city when I knew it in my teens and early 20s. It was, as Seth Mnookin suggests in “Our Boston: Writers Celebrate the City They Love” (Mariner: 354 pp., $16 paper), defined by “the Combat Zone and Filene's Basement and the old un-air-conditioned Garden.” Such landmarks appear throughout “Our Boston,” although the book is inspired by a more tragic, and more recent, bit of history: the bombings that shook the Boston Marathon earlier this year.
January 22, 2012 |
The Man Within My Head Pico Iyer Alfred A. Knopf: 256 pp., $25.95 Writers don't always get the critics and biographers they deserve, but since his death in 1991 Graham Greene has been on the whole pretty lucky. Norman Sherry completed his three-volume biography, a magnificent monument. National Book Award winner Shirley Hazzard wrote a sharply exquisite memoir of how she and her husband, the biographer Francis Steegmuller, got to know Greene on the isle of Capri, where Greene lived some months of each year during the 1950s and 1960s.
January 8, 2012 |
"Your sentences are so long," said a friend who teaches English at a local college, and I could tell she didn't quite mean it as a compliment. The copy editor who painstakingly went through my most recent book often put yellow dashes on-screen around my multiplying clauses, to ask if I didn't want to break up my sentences or put less material in every one. Both responses couldn't have been kinder or more considered, but what my friend and my colleague may...
December 20, 2009 |
It was already clear, in December of 1999, that books were a dying species. Already more people seemed interested in producing novels than consuming them, and when it came to serious works, there seemed more fascination with the writer than the writing. Books, I heard from two serious, bewildered editors in New York on the same trip, were now part of the "entertainment industry," and a first-time novelist was as likely to be judged on the power of his author photo as on the character of his content.
May 24, 2009 |
If Nobel laureate Toni Morrison edits a collection of famous writers on the subject of censorship and the power of the written word, wouldn't you expect a firecracker read? After all, what better lightning-rod topic exists for writers than the threat of shutting off their computers?
April 13, 2008 |
"THE pope?" Josef Stalin once asked a Western diplomat, according to a cherished tale preserved in countless history books. "How many divisions has he got?" Now that the long-simmering conflict between Tibet and China is boiling up again, the same question is surely being asked these days in Beijing about the Dalai Lama.