John Cheever may have been known as the “Chekhov of the suburbs” — Chekhov being an appellation applied to any superlative short story writer — but what he was best at was a sort of tight, realistic look at life’s mundanities, a hyper-awareness of all the posturing and jockeying that goes into our daily interactions, and how it can all be blown up by moments of transcendence and magic. He was an original, and there’ve been few writers since who have figured out how to apply the strangeness and grace that makes his best stories sing. … Read More
There’s always something exciting about reading a literary figure’s memoir, learning the details of their personal life (those they’re willing to share, anyway) and getting a glimpse into their creative process. But it’s perhaps more illuminating to read an outsider’s account of a literary great, assembled from years of reporting and sifting through private papers. A literary biography might not be as sensational as, say, the life story of a doomed Hollywood starlet (although certainly a fair number of novelists, playwrights, and poets have lived turbulent lives), but they do offer a complete picture that shatters the fourth walls of our favorite writers’ work. Here’s a collection of great bios that accomplish just… Read More
Though we’ve been having an astoundingly mild winter here in our native New York City, we managed to eke out a white Christmas, and the snowy season seems to have begun in earnest. Possibly. We hope. But there’s no reason to stay indoors — when the seasonal flurries appear, even that most indoor-cattish breed, the author, sometimes comes out to play. In celebration of the long months of winter ahead, we’ve put together a little collection of famous authors out in the snow — skiing, playing with their dogs, or just wandering about. So yes, we’re taking a rather wide interpretation of “playing,” but bear with us. Check out some chilly writers after the jump, and if we missed a favorite photo, add it to our collection in the comments. … Read More
As you probably know, here at Flavorpill, we’re fascinated by just about every aspect of the lives of our favorite authors — including what happened after them. This week saw the release of Tigers in Red Weather, a sultry, pitch-perfect literary thriller penned by Liza Klaussmann, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Herman Melville. Though her novel reminds us more of Fitzgerald’s gilded sneaking than Melville’s brutal sea voyage, we were inspired by her success to look up a few more of our favorite authors’ modern-day descendants. Just, you know, to check in. If you’re as addicted to prying as we are, see what they’re all up to after the jump. … Read More
[Editor’s note: While your Flavorwire editors take a much-needed holiday break, we’ll spend the next two weekends revisiting some of our most popular features of the year. This post was originally published July 13, 2011.] It’s an old topic but it always manages to be interesting — what did the authors we love do in order to write what they did? Beyond the jobs they held, what habits did they have that made writing possible? We take a look at 10 modern authors who had unusual approaches to writing; some due to the limits they would impose on themselves, others due to what they would wear or how they would attempt to channel greatness. Regardless of their methods, they have all produced work of lasting value. We might learn a thing or two from them if we’re willing to get out of our comfort zone and see the craft as just that — a skill to be exercised, not a bolt of ideas that comes if you wait long enough. So read on, dear readers, and tell us in the comments section who we missed. … Read More
Although we’re no longer bound to become blacksmiths or bakers based on our parents’ jobs, there are some professional skills that persist from one generation to the next. We’ve recently seen the power of artistic genetics with the release of Sophie Crumb’s first book (edited by her father Robert, no less), but it seems that literary DNA is particularly potent. With the holiday season now upon us — and with it, inevitable reunions with close family and distant relatives alike — here’s a toast to ten families for whom writing is part of the inherited legacy. … Read More
It was one of those Saturdays in deep summer when everyone thinks of going to the beach. You might have heard it at the grocery store check-out aisle from the couple in flip-flops buying vodka and watermelon, heard it at the local coffee shop on the lips of the tattooed girl talking to her band-mate over iced lattes, heard it from your mother via text message. It was one of those days when everyone was saying, “Maybe we should go to the beach.”
But the beach meant freeway traffic, crowded parking lots, and the long stretch of burning sand between PCH and the Pacific. So instead, I was roasting in my A/C-free Silverlake apartment, too lazy to move, when a collection of John Cheever’s short stories caught my eye. Flipping to “The Swimmer,” I re-visited protagonist Neddy Merrill’s expedition “swimming home” across his Connecticut suburb. Picturing Burt Lancaster in Sydney Pollack’s 1968 film adaptation of the tale, handsome and diving into a clear blue pool, I thought, I could do that — avoid the beach but still cool off by going pool-to-pool. So I hopped into my car and set out to swim across the City of Angels.
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The Fiction Fix is your weekly dose of short story. If that’s not your drug of choice, too bad: consider it medicine. Every week, we’ll scour the literary magazines you don’t have time to read, online and in print, and let you know where to find one story worth reading.
This week, your Fiction Fix is a long out-of-print short story by John Cheever, serialized on Five Chapters (note: start with Monday). The story is set in a charming post-WWI Boston, and follows the love affair between a young insurance agent and an exotic girl who lives across the river in Cambridge, and functions as a trailer for a few Cheever-related volumes out this spring. On her blog, Maud Newton uses Cheever to remind everyone that publishing, particularly of the short story, has suffered seriously before. … Read More
In this week’s New Republic, Mark I. Pinsky suggests that Barack Obama bail out laid-off journalists with a modern version of the Federal Writers Project — the program launched by FDR to provide jobs to more than 6,000 out-of-work creative types in the late ’30s. The emphasis was on documentation; writers worked on everything from state travel guides to slave narratives. Pinksy points out that many of the people involved the first time around became some of the biggest names in the American cannon — John Steinbeck, John Cheever, Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, and Richard Wright — and used FWP funding to research the works that made them famous. … Read More
“x-small;”>winner of 2008’s Flannery O’Connor prize for short fiction, so we had high expectations when we headed to KGB Bar’s Sunday night fiction series to hear him read. Luckily Selgin did not disappoint. In fact, we so thoroughly enjoyed his brisk reading of “Color of the Sea,” the story of an unlikely pair of traveling companions, that we asked if he would tell us about his favorite short stories.
After the jump, a list of Selgin’s influences. We’re sorry that one of our favorite authors, Flannery, didn’t make the cut, but we’re excited to have a few new names to explore — starting with first generation feminist Tillie Olsen. … Read More