A Summer Playlist, Why Not

Is mid-July too late for a summer playlist? I hope not.


The sequence is meant for a picnic or dinner party, with the tracks gathering steam as the sangria takes hold. Some of the songs, like “Do You” and “Problem,” are included simply because they’re addictive as hell. After the boozy, hectic midpoint, around “22 Grand Job”–the all-time best pop song about low wages, even if it is in British pounds–things slow down to encourage a laid-back, flirtatious vibe.

Oh, and a hat tip to the bartender at Skylark for introducing me to “Pass the Hatchet.”

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Exploring the New Yorker’s Archives

The New Yorker‘s archives are open to all for the next couple months. After that, the metered paywall goes up. So for those of you who haven’t subscribed, here are a few recommended gems:


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Reviewing Craig Davidson’s “Cataract City”

Cataract City


The good folks at the B&N Review published my writeup of Craig Davidson’s new novel Cataract City.

Craig Davidson might be Canadian, but his novel has the defiantly beating heart of a Bruce Springsteen song. Cataract City, the local nickname for Niagara Falls, Ontario, is a dying industry town with a Nabisco factory (“the Bisk”), pervasive alcoholism, and a foreboding proximity to the only national landmark with a reputation for stunt suicides. Over the course of the novel, two lifelong friends, Owen Stuckey and Duncan Diggs, will taste a little glory and a lot more defeat. They’ll warm bar stools at their regular dive. They’ll even fight over the same woman. You might as well accompany it with a spin of Born to Run.

Read on…

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Thanks everyone who came out to Laser Didion last Saturday. It was a perfect comedown from the annual BEA insanity, and I’m thrilled so many people braved the G train clusterfuck for a late-night event in Greenpoint.

As requested, here’s the playlist of the night’s entertainment.

We listened to “Notes Toward a Dreampolitik,” “On the Road,” and “On the Morning After the Sixties” from The White Album. And a big thank you to Jenn Northington at WORD for hosting our after-hours to-do.

A few Instagrams: Continue reading

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Laser Didion Is Coming


Saturday, May 31st. Email me for details.

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Into the Unknown

I have some exciting job news to share! Or rather, no job news: I’ve recently left Atavist Books to take some time off and re-evaluate my next move. Why? Five reasons:

Is this a financially sound decision? Perhaps not. Will this be personally fulfilling? I think so. As you can guess from the links above, I’ve been casting a critical eye on how I might create more value with my work.

Of course, I’m not spending my days in a bathrobe, binging on HBO GO. My trivia book with Chronicle proceeds apace, and I’m thrilled to be freelancing with W. W. Norton on digital marketing and advertising for Michael Lewis’s Flash Boys. (Read it. It’s great.)

I’m also working on two very exciting large endeavors… which I can’t talk about quite yet. But trust me: exciting. I can talk about Laser Didion, which is coming to BEA on Saturday the 31st. Hit me up for details.

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The PEN World Voices Workshop: n+1’s “How to Do Theory in a Literary Magazine”

There’s an almost sitcom predictability to a group of people debating literary theory. The earnest populist. The contrarian. The grammarian. The blowhard who prefaces every response with a recitation of his CV. The nihilist (last week, the existentialist). The expert in 20th-century Newfoundland lit. 

It’s ripe for satire, and yet I miss it terribly. After several years in the wilds of corporate America, I wondered if I could find a group of like-minded adults without incurring grad-school debt.

The PEN World Voices workshop attempts to answer this question. Around twenty of us gathered in the Public Theatre’s gorgeous library, seated around a large wooden table in leather chairs the color of chocolate: an architect, a Bulgarian professor of literature, a smattering of art critics and graduate students, a few curious readers/writers, even a farmer from Vermont. Who better to moderate than n+1‘s Nikil Saval? The room felt like the fulcrum between the journal’s antipodal “MFA vs. NYC.” And also the kind of room which inspires me to use words like antipodal.

Saval started us off with a brief history of n+1 and their central editorial inquiry: Is there a space between the academy and the world of mainstream journalism to write about literary theory? What would it look like? 

I’m a total sucker for this stuff. There was a pleasant symmetry between n+1‘s mission and the workshop, this search for something between a master’s program and a book reading. Saval handed out a few short texts–Louis Menand on Paul de Man, James Wood on Teju Cole, Mark Greif on exercise–but didn’t insist we read them in full. He didn’t lecture. Even when we slipped from discussing the theory in the texts to reviewing its practice, Saval let the discussion travel its circuitous route. As a nihilist, I don’t know if I would have been so patient. As a New Yorker, I have my fingers crossed PEN creates more workshops like this one.


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