“So let’s take this apart” is one of my favorite things to hear from a really good storyteller.

They get into a story, either one of theirs or someone else’s, and get deep into it and explain what worked and what didn’t and really start talking about the stuff that you probably should have caught the first time but you missed because you thought it was just an adventure story about a whale. But no! It’s an allegory for the Social Contract and the coffin is a symbol of life coming out of death, I guess?

Anyway, I recently found a great collection of essays on famous capital-L Literature that were each written by writers and artists that give insight that schlubs like me require someone to point out to me.

The Story About the Story: Great Writers Explore Great Literature collects the following:
(deep breath)

Charles D’Ambrosio writing about Salinger. Woolf writing about Hemingway, Sven Birkerts talking about Keats, William H. Gass talking about Malcolm Lawry, Dagoberto Gilb talking about Cormac McCarthy, Nabokov writing about Kafka, Alain de Botton talking about Proust, Seamus Heaney talking about Eliot (T.S., not George), Salman Rushdie writing about L. Frank Baum, J.C. Hallman talking about Henry James, Michael Chabon writing about Montague James, Cynthia Ozick talking about Capote, James Wood talking about Chekov, D. H. Lawrence writing about Melville, Geoff Dyer writing about D.H. Lawrence, Czeslaw Milosz writing about Frost, Phyllis Rose writing about Proust, Randall Jarrell writing about Marianne Moore, Susan Sontag talking about Dostoyevsky, Edward Hirsch writing about various poets including Miklós Radnóti and Sylvia Plath, E.B. White writing about Thoreau, Walter Kirn talking some serious smack about Salinger, Wilde writing about Walter Pater, Fred Setterberg talking about Hemngway, Robert Hass talking about Robert Lowell, Hesse writing about Dostoevsky, Frank O’Connor writing about Katherine Mansfield, Davit Lodge talking about Waugh, Milan Kundera talking about Kafka, Camus writing about Melville, and Wallace Stegner talking about Steinbeck.


Now, you maybe have read a couple of these before in your various travails (I know that we read Nabokov’s essay about Kafka back in one of my philosophy courses way back in antiquity) but this book collects all of them together and, better yet, arranges them well so you can pick it up, read an essay, and put it back down 10 pages later and feel like you’ve actually read something a heck of a lot longer. (And, hey, maybe you’ll be inspired to pick up the stuff they’re actually talking about. Well, probably not Salinger.)

If you’ve been frustrated that you have only bite-sized slices of time and wish you could devour a feast of a novel? Well, Lawrence’s essay on Melville will tide you over for a few days… or Woolf’s exploration of Hemingway will have you remember the stories you read decades ago and google the Wikipedia pages dedicated to them. Or, hey, if you find yourself in a place where you need to quickly jockey for position, you can open with something like “I was reading Herman Hesse’s criticism of Dostoevsky recently and there’s no real point, really. I just wanted to point that out.”

So… what are you reading and/or watching?

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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

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4 thoughts on “Sunday!

  1. I’m watching the one season of Constantine and lamenting that this is all we’re going to get (though K tells me that Constantine has been introduced as a recurring character on Legends of Tomorrow). I also purchased Hellblazer volume 1 and we’ll see how comic book reading works in the Comixology app on my tablet.

    Also it is 7:30 PM and I’m still in my pj’s. Lazy Sunday successfully executed.

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  2. I saw Ceazy Rich Asians on Friday. As a movie the plot was pure romcom stereotype. I give it a B. The big thing though is that it did not hide or explain its Asianness. So when they are showing a lavish party at Grandmas, they don’t tell you what all the Chinese specialties are. Plus they use a fair bit of Singaporean slang. No one bats an eye that grown children live at home because that is what Asian children do in Asia.

    I recently watched Legends of Tomorrow. The first season was marred by acting that was more painful than root canal but the second and third seasons were a wacky delight. I have been watching Season 1 of the Flash.

    For reading, it is The Monied Metropolois: New York and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeois: 1850-1896

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  3. Re-reading:
    Army Field Manual FM 22-100
    Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations (spanish)
    Not books to be read, but absorbed.
    Absorbing for the umpteenth time.

    Old videos of the Sweet on YouTube.
    Some old Black Sabbath concert videos.

    Dio looks drunk on-stage, and forgets the words at times.
    I haven’t seen any Ozzy videos from the Never Say Die tour for comparison purposes. Must have been really, really bad.

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  4. I’ve been reading (slowly, because they are best when I have significant available brain) Jemisin’s trilogy, all 3 volumes of which have now won a Hugo.

    I can see why, and for once I don’t think it’s familiarity / partiality.

    They’re all 3 damn damn good books.

    A lot of really ambiguous and nuanced stuff about power, intention, etc., dressed up *really well* as far-enough-future that we’re in tech-indistiguishable-from-magic territory.

    And she uses a bunch of “literary” style stuff but only *where it makes the story better* and not just to show off – everything like that turns out to be there for a world-buildy or story-building or character-buildy reason if you wait for the payoffs.

    Haven’t enjoyed something this deeply in years.

    First one is called The Fifth Season.

    I also started Westerfeld’s 50-years-later followup to his YA trilogy Uglies/Pretties/Specials, which is called Imposters. Mostly what I’m noticing so far is how very much his writing has improved on a mechanics level since way back then. The dystopic trilogy was only at all good (and it was good!) because a) interesting ideas, b) the reader for the audios was BRILLIANT. The post-revolution-breakup-of-the-dystopia followup is an equally fun, equally Not Serious Work, but *very hard to put down* adventure story – and the difference lies mainly in the writing quality.

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