The Millions7 min read
Noir Is All About Bad Decisions: The Millions Interviews William Boyle
The novels of the Oxford-based, Brooklyn-born author William Boyle are replete with dire circumstances, gallows humor and instantly iconic characters. An unapologetic disciple of the noir masters of the past, his work invokes both the mind-bending mo
The Millions5 min read
To Rip It Up and Start Again: Jeff Jackson’s ‘Destroy All Monsters’
Like many kids who grew up in small towns where there wasn’t much to do, I spent my adolescence going to punk rock shows. I wasn’t an actual punk, mind you. While other kids bleached their hair and affixed Black Flag patches to their backpacks, I wor
The Millions5 min readPolitics
A Mysterious Respect for Lies: On Éric Vuillard’s ‘Order of the Day’
The sun is a cold star. It’s heart, spines of ice. Its light, unforgiving. In February, the trees are dead, the river petrified, as if the springs had stopped spewing water and the sea could swallow no more. These ominous lines open Éric Vuillard’s T
The Millions2 min read
The Millions Top Ten: September 2018
We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buyi
The Millions7 min readPolitics
Trump’s Got Mail: About Those Great Love Letters from Kim Jong Un
At a campaign rally in West Virginia over the weekend, Donald Trump alternated between bluster over the Brett Kavanaugh nomination and starry-eyed musing over his surprising new relationship with North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un. “We fell in love,”
The Millions8 min read
Facts That Turn Out to Be Fiction: Ann Cummins and Sarah Stone on Writing, Landscape, and Family
We met in 2002, when we were teaching at Pima Writers Workshop. Later that summer, we were fellows, and roommates, at Bread Loaf Writers Conference. For nearly a decade and a half, we’ve been friends and in the same writers’ group, reading each other
The Millions5 min read
Childlike Wonder, Adult Wisdom: Remembering Ursula K. Le Guin, Donald Hall, and Aretha Franklin
Never curse a slow elevator. Like a book or a song, it may offer lessons in grace or about growing older with truth and dignity. I was once on an aging contraption wheezing its way from floor one to two … to six, when the unobstructed honesty of a ch
The Millions5 min read
How to Have an Opinion: The Criticism of Martin Seymour-Smith
Martin Seymour-Smith was a grumpy fellow. A promising poet who took up writing big reference books of literary criticism, his highly idiosyncratic 1977 survey Who’s Who In Twentieth Century Literature is deliciously highbrow junk food. But like straw
The Millions8 min read
Understanding My Father’s Suicide through ‘The Journals of Spalding Gray’
1. I couldn’t bring myself to drive to Boston’s Revere Beach, where my father drowned himself in 1992, so I took the G train to the Greenpoint Waterfront, where Spalding Gray’s body was discovered in 2004. I’d been there before, of course—countless a
The Millions12 min read
Machines Made of Words and Making Trouble: The Millions Interviews Lacy M. Johnson
In her “ferociously beautiful and courageous” 2014 memoir The Other Side, Lacy M. Johnson recounted how she was kidnapped, held hostage, raped, and nearly killed by—as she describes him—a man she once loved: a man who also got away, avoiding prosecut
The Millions11 min readPolitics
Triumphs of Pseudoscientific Reasoning: On Osip Mandelstam’s ‘Journey to Armenia’
1. In 1922, the same year the USSR entered the world, the poet Osip Mandelstam moved to Moscow, hoping to establish himself as a leading voice of the Socialist utopia he’d supported since his teens. Instead, he found himself an outcast. In early Sovi
The Millions6 min read
How To Write A Bestseller
I have a friend—call him Tom—who, like me, is a writer. Tom has written many novels over a long and enviable publishing career, and his novel-writing philosophy, related to me over various drinks at various bars, can be summarized as follows: Write w
The Millions2 min read
2018’s Literary Geniuses
This year’s “Genius grant” winners have been announced. The MacArthur grant awards $625,000 “no strings attached” to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for se
The Millions6 min read
Stories Overlooked: The Millions Interviews Chaya Bhuvaneswar
Winner of the 2017 Dzanc Short Story Collection Prize, Chaya Bhuvaneswar’s White Dancing Elephants is a daring look at the power of imagination. Bhuvaneswar, a practicing psychiatrist on the East Coast, has created intricate characters who fight back
The Millions7 min read
Little Golden Flower-Room: On Wild Places and Intimacy
I was asking a different but related question from my previous one about small wild places: how little intimacy can I survive on? The post Little Golden Flower-Room: On Wild Places and Intimacy appeared first on The Millions.
The Millions4 min read
Across Geography and History: On Esi Edugyan’s ‘Washington Black’
Washington Black is a terrific new narrative about enslavement, but that description fails to do it justice. Canadian writer Esi Edugyan’s third novel, long-listed for the Booker Prize, is a multi-faceted tale that travels across geography and histor
The Millions6 min read
It’s Time We Started Stressing: The Millions Interviews Earl Swift
With his seventh book, Chesapeake Requiem: A Year With the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island, Earl Swift has hit the trifecta sought by all writers of nonfiction but achieved by very few. The book is the fruit of deep-dive, immersive research; it
The Millions5 min read
Must-Read Poetry: October 2018
Here are six notable books of poetry publishing in October. The Lumberjack’s Dove by GennaRose Nethercott All praise to book-length poems. Nethercott’s yarn begins with a lumberjack who chops off his own hand. “The hand becomes a dove” and tries to f
The Millions9 min read
Absence of Inspiration, Absence of God: On Christian Wiman’s ‘He Held Radical Light’
1. One of the themes that speak most powerfully from Christian Wiman’s writings—poems, essays, memoirs—is that of the absence of inspiration or the absence of God. To begin with the first formulation, Wiman concedes of the texts most close to his hea
The Millions6 min read
October Preview: The Millions Most Anticipated (This Month)
We wouldn’t dream of abandoning our vast semi–annual Most Anticipated Book Previews, but we thought a monthly reminder would be helpful (and give us a chance to note titles we missed the first time around). Here’s what we’re looking out for this mont
The Millions5 min read
Is Baseball What’s Wrong with America?
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, I managed to vanish unnoticed from my day job in an office in midtown Manhattan and materialize in the lovely little ballpark on Staten Island, where a minor-league affiliate of the New York Yankees was taking on the
The Millions9 min read
Eroded Tropes and Fears and Consequences: The Millions Interviews Alyson Hagy
It’s been 18 years since Alyson Hagy and I both won a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Nested within the list of grantees was a scattering of addresses. I wrote to Alyson. She answered. We’ve seen each other just twice in all these yea
The Millions5 min read
It’s OK To Be A Writer And A ____
There are many essays on the “five habits of successful writers,” or “how to get your writing done when everything else is crowding in on you.” This isn’t one of those pieces. It is, however, an essay about continuous identity in a world which consta
The Millions12 min read
The New Periphery: Sergio De La Pava Discusses His Artistry and Sense of 21st-Century Fiction
In early July, I was able to sit down and interview Sergio De La Pava, the explosive, encyclopedic author who heralds a new era of the novel. A public defender in New York City, Sergio wrote his first novel on the commute to and from court cases, sel
The Millions10 min read
What the World Demands of You: The Millions Interviews Margo Jefferson
I meet Margo Jefferson for breakfast at her hotel in Boulder, Colorado, where she’s speaking at a literary conference. She’s energetic in both her speech and movement, gesturing, reaching, illustrating with her hands—artifacts, I think, of her years
The Millions5 min read
Thomas Ligotti’s Horror Doesn’t Give You an Easy Out
“It’s peculiar to me… that everybody pays so much attention to living and so little to dying,” Gloria Beatty says in the third chapter of Horace McCoy’s 1935 novel They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? “Why are these high-powered scientists always screwing
The Millions5 min read
Then Again, Maybe I Will: The Reads I Kept Hidden in My Youth
1. I found the paperback on a metal card table at my neighbor’s garage sale: Judy Blume’s Then Again, Maybe I Won’t. I was 8 years old and already loved the author for books like Blubber, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and Superfudge. The well-worn
The Millions12 min read
Martin Riker Discusses Fatherhood, 19th-Century Literature, and the Beastie Boys
Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return, which marks Martin Riker’s first book-length foray into fiction, is a book that I imagine has been simmering for a long time, and one that likely has taken a back seat to Marty’s many other pursuits. As one of our mos
The Millions14 min read
God in the Trash Fire: Thomas Traherne Endures
“To burn a book is to bring light to the world.” —Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810) “Every book burned enlightens the world.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) Circumstances surrounding the occasional rediscovery of the poetry of the 17th-century divine
The Millions5 min read
The Business of Blowing Shit Up: David Shields on Trump, Media, and Being Prolific
David Shields and I met almost 30 years ago, just after the publication of his breakthrough second novel, Dead Languages, at the sadly now defunct Bailey/Coy Bookstore in Seattle. We’ve been discussing and debating literature and media ever since. Th
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