If you’re a writer, you’ll live your life not knowing if you’re any good. And you’ll die not knowing. I think John Berryman said that. After Phil Levine published his first book of poems, people said, yeah, but can you do it again? Then he did it again. Then they said, yeah, but have... Continue Reading →
Writing the Hard Thing
If I could tell you the number of stories and novels I’ve begun writing and not finished, we’d be here too long. But “not finished” doesn’t mean “discarded.” It means what it says. The difficulty comes when I’ve convinced myself that I’m one sort of writer (the consistent, cheerfully productive kind) as opposed the other,... Continue Reading →
Solving climate change one slick magazine at a time.
Read my latest in Splice Today: https://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/jonathan-franzen-can-t-solve-climate-change-for-anyone-who-matters
The Peanut Gallery: Purveyors of Fine Hatred Since 1880
When I began teaching as a graduate student, publishing in magazines, and generally moving my life forward in visible ways, I learned a difficult lesson that accompanies progress: people don’t like it when you succeed. They don’t want to see it. They don’t want to know about it. And if they become aware that you... Continue Reading →
Recently, I had a moment where I thought someone couldn’t possibly be for real and I was about to use his face to sharpen my claws . . . and then he responded with disarming sincerity. It’s wonderful when that happens. Sincerity—not honesty but the good-faith attempt to be honest, which seems far more powerful... Continue Reading →
Surpassing Meritocracy: the Artist’s Way
There are many different paths to greatness, not just the ones most commonly identified by conformist culture. As long as your basic needs are met, where you put your energy—how you pursue excellence—is completely your business. Realizing this can be difficult and gradual. It seems true, even if we admit that discourses (value systems) will... Continue Reading →
US anti-intellectualism through a glass darkly: the end of our national self-inquiry.
Today, Rebecca Schuman wrote a worthwhile piece in Slate, “The End of Research in Wisconsin,” covering the academic outcry against Gov. Walker’s $250-million budget cuts and subsequent demolition of tenure at state universities. It’s mildly sensational Slate fare, which is to say, it’s well-written, informative, and disturbing. I think one of the main reasons we’re seeing upsetting stories like this about the... Continue Reading →