STORY

My least favorite professional liars: PR people, speechwriters, and scientists

There is a very scary article in the Feb. 10, 2014 New Yorker, about a scientist (Tyrone Hayes) who discovered in the late 1990s that the herbicide atrazine, made by a company called Syngenta, grossly disrupts the hormonal systems of amphibians. Other researchers have since argued that groundwater contamination from atrazine poses a severe risk [...]

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Journalistic convention: Why the New York Times conflated the Norway shootings with Islamic terrorism

Yesterday’s New York Times carried a deadline report of the killing just outside of Oslo, Norway, of “at least 80 people” by a lone gunman who walked into a youth political camp and began shooting. The story carried the information high up that police had arrested a 32-year-old Norwegian man, reportedly a right-wing extremist, as [...]

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Rewriting “The Piano Teacher” for stronger scenes

Yesterday I came to the end of The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee. It’s an intriguing read, and highly suspenseful—but among other things, it has reminded me of John Gardner’s injunction that actions in a scene should nearly always be described in chronological order. This is a point of craft I regularly teach [...]

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My favorite ellipsis

Last night in the essays class I teach at NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, the subject of ellipses came up. In a story, an ellipsis consists of leaving something out. The “something” can be anything from a few words to entire events. Unless we are reading quite technically, we usually only notice an [...]

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Samuel R. Delaney on doubt in writing

Reading the excerpt below makes me think of how difficult yet rewarding it must be to peel and eat a durian, that strange fruit found only in southeast Asia, and guarded by not only a foul odor but a thick husk of thorns. The excerpt comes from an essay by the science fiction writer, literary [...]

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Writing Memoirs and Reportage: Camera, or Participant?

If you’re writing a memoir or other form of first-person nonfiction, you must decide from the outset: do you want to be a camera, or a participant? If you’re a camera, you’ll see everything that happens and relay it to your readers in great detail—yet at the same time, you’ll play down or even conceal [...]

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How to combine story and idea in an essay

Why write a personal essay? One reason is that few other forms allow a writer to combine story and idea, action and thought; in short, to not only relate incidents from your life, but to muse about the implications. The question is, how to do this so that it works? You might think that an [...]

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Essays by Grossman and Pamuk

Not really book reviews, just quick notes -

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