Archive for January, 2013

A very quick post (for those of you who enjoyed my post about the George Saunders reading at Politics and Prose) to say that the George Saunders podcast is finally up!

You can listen to it here.

He reads the beginning of “Escape from Spiderhead,” which originally appeared in the New Yorker, looking like this:

Escape from Spiderhead

And which you can read in its entirety in his new book, Tenth of December:



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Last night I watched The Queen of Versailles and was reminded once again of the idea of “enough.”

It’s very simple: stop when you have enough.

This goes for all kinds of consumption: eating (especially large meals at restaurants where you don’t usually get to pick your portion), drinking (coffee, alcohol, milkshakes or any “vice” drinks), shopping (for clothes, shoes, and even more “educational” items like books, CDs or toys for the twins).  You get to decide for yourself what “enough” is.  But stopping when you’ve had enough allows you to enjoy what you have and avoid all kinds of bloat and clutter — such as the piles of clothes and toys and papers I saw in The Queen of Versailles.

Now, the Queen and her family were very, very rich.  And then the market crashed and they (more…)

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Wow.  Just … wow.

I’ve loved George Saunders ever since I read CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, and when I told him (at his Politics and Prose reading last night), he said that I must have been about four when I read it.  “Between 14 and 24,” I said — not trying to be cagey about my age but because I was so happy to be talking with him that I got a little math-addled.  (I was much closer to 24.)

George Saunders reading at Politics & Prose.

George Saunders reading at Politics & Prose.

It was a terrific reading.  He (more…)

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Two pees in a pod

So after that last post you might be expecting something big and revolutionary.  I kind of am too … but the more I think about it the more intimidating the prospect becomes and the less inclined I am to write anything at all.  So instead I’m going to write about what’s on my mind and if it turns into something counter-cultural and grand, great.  But today, at least, I don’t think it will.  What’s on my mind is pee.

The twins — not yet two — seem to want to start potty training.  Although “training” is hardly the right word for it.  They like to (more…)

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During yesterday’s visit to the Folger Shakespeare Library (after seeing “Very Like a Whale,” an exhibit that showcased, among other things, a narwhal tooth, an enormous chained book and an etching of a saint saying mass on top of a whale), I learned that if I were living in Tudor England, today would be Plough Monday.  (Perhaps it still is.)  On Plough Monday you put the revels of Christmas and New Year’s Day and Twelfth Night behind you and set your hand to the plow.  After at least twelve days of lying fallow, it’s time for me to do the same.

During my writing hiatus, I did a lot of reading.  I read Thinking Like Your Editor (which helped me frame my biography project) and The Forest for the Trees (which helped me think my long-term writing plans in general).

I also read a terrific article in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine about George Saunders, his work, his life, and the way he thinks about American culture.  I’ve enjoyed his short stories ever since CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, and now I want to read his collection of essays (how did I miss it?) The Braindead Megaphone.  I love the way Saunders pushes the extremes of our cultural needs (for entertainment, for drugs, for money, for stories) to show us what might lie ahead.

So that’s a lot of name-dropping, and book-title-linking.  But what I’m really thinking about is (more…)

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