Reluctant Habits

Stone Arabia Roundtable — Part Five

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In our final installment of the Stone Arabia discussion, we hear new thoughts from ten of our participants — including Full Stop’s Alex Shephard and a lengthy response from Dana Spiotta herself!

Stone Arabia Roundtable — Part Four

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Our fourth roundtable installment features Susan Straight remarking upon the book after a death in the family, Porochista Khakpour coming to grips with her Los Angeles past and her academic present, Roxane Gay pursuing the issue of supporting women’s writers, and Judith Zissman investigating memory.

Stone Arabia Roundtable — Part Three

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Our third roundtable installment features Lydia Kiesling, Paula Bomer, and more — with thoughts on authenticity, early Internet culture, polyamory, and punk rock.

Stone Arabia Roundtable — Part Two

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Our second installment features a footnote-charged cover dissection from Darby Dixon, thoughts on reader obligation from Robert Birnbaum, insights into concession from Insulted by Authors’s Bill Ryan, and connections to hoarding from Roxane Gay.

Stone Arabia Roundtable — Part One

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Our first installment features Edward Champion, Sarah Weinman, Levi Asher, and Diane Leach discussing artistic integrity, the music world, Ada Lovelace, Thomas Kinkade, Sontag, and public dissection.

Sarah Hall Roundtable — Part Five

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(This is the fifth of a five-part roundtable discussion of Sarah Hall’s How to Paint a Dead Man.) Other Installments: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four More on Hall: “The Early Fiction of Sarah Hall” and a one hour radio interview I conducted with Hall in 2008. Many thanks to all the participants, to Gregory Henry at Harper for getting the books out to everyone so quickly, and to Sarah Hall for her gracious eleventh-hour participation. Judith Zissman writes: Ed started us out with this, among other things:…read more

Sarah Hall Roundtable — Part Four

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(This is the fourth of a five-part roundtable discussion of Sarah Hall’s How to Paint a Dead Man.) Other Installments: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Five More on Hall: “The Early Fiction of Sarah Hall” and a one hour radio interview I conducted with Hall in 2008. Jenny Davidson writes: Ugh, I am feeling awful about this — I don’t like writing negative reviews, I’ve been dragging my heels on finishing the book and writing a few thoughts for your consideration – but now that I’ve finished reading…read more

Sarah Hall Roundtable — Part Three

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(This is the third of a five-part roundtable discussion of Sarah Hall’s How to Paint a Dead Man.) Other Installments: Part One, Part Two, Part Four, Part Five More on Hall: “The Early Fiction of Sarah Hall” and a one hour radio interview I conducted with Hall in 2008. Brian Francis Slattery writes: This has all been a pleasure to read so far, and good to be meeting some of you, if electronically, for the first time. When I was in my first year or so of college, and an…read more

Sarah Hall Roundtable — Part Two

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(This is the second of a five-part roundtable discussion of Sarah Hall’s How to Paint a Dead Man.) Other Installments: Part One, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five More on Hall: “The Early Fiction of Sarah Hall” and a one hour radio interview I conducted with Hall in 2008. Miracle Jones writes: “You turned instead to the place where all depraved civilian requests are made and met: the internet.” — Sarah Hall, How to Paint a Dead Man This book was chilly.  Cold, cold, cold.  Not just cold: frozen.  Ordinarily,…read more

Sarah Hall Roundtable — Part One

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(This is the first of a five-part roundtable discussion of Sarah Hall’s How to Paint a Dead Man.) Other Installments: Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five More on Hall: “The Early Fiction of Sarah Hall” and a one hour radio interview I conducted with Hall in 2008. This week, Sarah Hall’s fourth novel, How to Paint a Dead Man, hits bookstores in the United States. And this website will be devoting the entire week to discussing Hall’s book. We’ll be serializing the conversation in five chunky installments from…read more

Sarah Hall Roundtable Next Week!

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This is just a reminder that, next week, we’ll be devoting this website to a detailed roundtable discussion of Sarah Hall’s How to Paint a Dead Man. The discussion, now in progress, has generated interesting asides on epistemological obstacles, whether second-person perspective is annoying, Procrustean plot structures, Fascist flower girls, The Breakfast Club, Bright Lights, Big City, still life vs. real life, the ineffable nature of artists, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, being “an ambitious little prick” in relation to literature, William Faulkner vs. Virginia Woolf, Led Zeppelin, John Updike’s rules…read more

Sarah Hall Roundtable

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During the week of September 7, 2009, this website will be devoting its attentions to discussing Sarah Hall’s forthcoming novel, How to Paint a Dead Man. The novel, recently longlisted for the Booker Prize, concerns itself with four stories taking place over half a century. And we have assembled a rowdy crew to oar through these promising waters. If you’re not familiar with Sarah Hall, you can read my essay on her first three novels for The Barnes and Noble Review. You can also listen to my one hour podcast…read more

Roundtable Discussion Coming in September

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As any person keeping tabs on the publishing industry knows, there are so many high-profile books coming out this year that it’s difficult for some of the books that aren’t written by Thomas Pynchon, William T. Vollmann, and Nicholson Baker (as good as these authors are) to get the credit they deserve. It has therefore become necessary to unleash yet another roundtable discussion for a particularly exciting title sometime during September. For those readers who have enjoyed our previous roundtable discussions of Richard Powers’s The Echo Maker, Nicholson Baker’s Human…read more

Ellen Ruppel Shell’s CHEAP — Part Five

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(This is the fifth of a five-part roundtable discussion of Ellen Ruppel Shell’s Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. Other installments: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four.) (A podcast interview with author Ellen Ruppel Shell will follow this afternoon. Thanks to all the roundtable participants for their input, Penguin Press for providing us with the books, and for Ms. Ruppel Shell for her time and generosity.) Erin O’Brien writes: I thought one of the most stunning aspects of our conversation was how emotional many of us…read more

Ellen Ruppel Shell’s CHEAP — Part Four

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(This is the fourth of a five-part roundtable discussion of Ellen Ruppel Shell’s Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. Other installments: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Five.) Edward Champion writes: I’m going to attempt to address as many of these interesting points as I can, even as we await Levi’s answer with book before him and take up Miracle Jones’s sensible advice on how to live cheap. Early into the discussion, Peggy mentioned that she thought Ruppel Shell hadn’t entirely considered the idea of community-based commerce. …read more

Ellen Ruppel Shell’s CHEAP — Part Three

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(This is the third of a five-part roundtable discussion of Ellen Ruppel Shell’s Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. Other installments: Part One, Part Two, Part Four, and Part Five.) Jackson West writes: Sadly, like Kathleen, I wasn’t particularly surprised by many of the examples used in Cheap.  However, unlike Kathleen, I’m a bit of a bargain hunting hobbyist — mostly in the realm of clothes, food and media.  Because, as many of you know, writing isn’t exactly the quickest way to riches these days (if it ever was). …read more

Ellen Ruppel Shell’s CHEAP — Part Two

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(This is the second of a five-part roundtable discussion of Ellen Ruppel Shell’s Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. Other installments: Part One, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five.) Kathleen Maher writes: I am not quite finished reading Cheap, but I have to admit that I’m finding it more interesting than I expected, seeing that I generally don’t read non-fiction and can’t stand shopping — especially for bargains.   I enjoyed the quick history of American department stores and such trivia as the invention of the price tag.  But…read more

Ellen Ruppel Shell’s CHEAP — Part One

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(This is the first of a five-part roundtable discussion of Ellen Ruppel Shell’s Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. Other installments: Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five.) Since present economic developments have caused nearly all of us to reconsider just how we spend our money, I selected Ellen Ruppel Shell’s Cheap for our latest roundtable discussion. For those readers who aren’t familiar with the roundtable discussions, this website will be devoting the entire week to discussing Ruppel Shell’s book, and we’ll be serializing the conversation in…read more

New Roundtable Discussion Date

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Ladies and gentlemen, for those eagerly watching the skies, there has been a slight change in plans. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we will be discussing Ellen Ruppel Shell’s Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture during the week of July 13th, not the previous week (as previously announced). Yes, this is a fundamentally simple piece of data. The equivalent of attending a math class, walking up to a chalkboard with an eraser, wiping out a number in an equation, and replacing it with another number. If you did this, it…read more

Our July Roundtable Book Revealed!

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Ladies and gentlemen, during the week of July 13th, 2009, an intrepid team of journalists, unusual voices, first wave bloggers, and second wave bloggers will congregate on these pages to discuss Ellen Ruppel Shell’s Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. We will be serializing our discussion over the course of that week and, as always, your feedback is welcome in the comments. You might remember Ellen Ruppel Shell’s previous book, The Hungry Gene, which explored the topic of obesity from numerous angles. Shell’s latest book tackles the subject of…read more

Roundtable Discussion Coming in July

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It came together at the last minute, but this website is going to be featuring a roundtable discussion during the week of July 8, 2009. For those readers who have enjoyed our previous roundtable discussions of Richard Powers’s The Echo Maker, Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke, Eric Kraft’s Flying, and various other books, this casual but thoughtful symposium in July will operate along similar lines. I cannot reveal the book at this time. But I can tell you that the book is nonfiction and deals with a significant issue — something…read more

Flying Roundtable: Stage Five

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(This is the fifth of a five-part roundtable discussion of Eric Kraft’s Flying. Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four can also be read. Many thanks to Eric Kraft and all the participants for their time and careful attentions.) Eric Kraft writes: Thank you, Ed, for organizing this roundtable and assembling such a diverse and interesting group. I hope that they will find at least some of what follows as interesting as I found their remarks. Peter as Dreamer (for Sarah Weinman) At one point in “Do Clams…read more

Flying Roundtable: Stage Four

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(This is the fourth of a five-part roundtable discussion of Eric Kraft’s Flying. Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Five can be read here.) Edward Champion writes: “There was beauty below them, inarguable and unique — many fine things built for the contentment of hardy men — and there was decadence — more ships in bottle than on the water.– but why grieve over this?  Looking back at the village we might put ourselves into the shoes of a native son (with a wife and family in Cleveland)…read more

Flying Roundtable: Stage Three

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(This is the third of a five-part roundtable discussion of Eric Kraft’s Flying. Part One, Part Two, Part Four, and Part Five can also be read.) Kathleen Maher writes: Regarding the comparison of Flying to Proust (whose “Swann’s Way,” I almost struggled through); Nabokov (whom I admit enjoying); and Pynchon (never got past 100 pages) — these are blurb-writers’ selling points. The blurbs also compare Kraft’s writing to Fred Astaire’s dancing. You may be disinterested in Astaire’s Hollywood dance routines, but accusing him of “lead” feet? Not right. Suggesting Astaire…read more

Flying Roundtable: Stage Two

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(This is the second of a five-part roundtable discussion of Eric Kraft’s Flying. Part One, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five can also be read.) Matt Cheney writes: I’m going to throw another topic out there for discussion, because I’m only one third of the way through Flying and I’m struggling. Here’s my question: What do you make of the narrative voice?  Or voices, if you identify them differently? I ask because I’ve been reading the book off and on for a month now, but have only just begun…read more

Flying Roundtable: Stage One

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(This is the first of a five-part roundtable discussion of Eric Kraft’s Flying. Here’s Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five.) Introduction This week marks the release of Eric Kraft‘s Flying, a collection of three novels that include Taking Off, On the Wing, and the previously unreleased Flying Home. This trilogy forms the latest set of volumes in Kraft’s ongoing series of books set in the Peter Leroy universe, which Kraft has devoted more than a million words to. Peter Leroy is a dreamer who has been writing…read more

Roundtable Discussion: Eric Kraft’s FLYING

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Beginning on March 2, 2009, this website will be kickstarting a lengthy roundtable discussion of Eric Kraft’s Flying over the course of the week. (For those hoping to follow along with the discussion, this is the same week that the book comes out.) Who is Eric Kraft? Well, as I learned when enlisting roundtable participants, a lot of people aren’t all that aware of him. In fact, I only found out about the guy by accident about a decade ago, when I stumbled upon a series of paperbacks labeled The…read more

Coming in March

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For those readers who have enjoyed our lengthy roundtable discussions of Richard Powers’s The Echo Maker, Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke, and various other books, let it be known that, during the first week of March, this website will be devoting an entire week to another elaborate roundtable discussion. (There will likely be a quite lengthy podcast interview as a supplement to the discussion.) The novel in question, which we will reveal at some point in February, comes from a writer you may not have heard of. (Indeed, it has been…read more

Human Smoke — Part Five

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(This concludes our roundtable discussion of Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke. For previous installments: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four. (Many thanks to Julia Prosser at Simon & Schuster, who was kind enough to go along with this crazy idea; Nicholson Baker, for taking the time out of his busy schedule to reply to these many thoughts; and, of course, to all the participants who offered provocative and interesting insights into the book. If you’d like to discuss the book further, feel free to hash it out in…read more

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Human Smoke — Part Four

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(This is the fourth of a five-part roundtable discussion of Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke. For additional installments: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Five.) Jackson West writes: I dithered on whether to bring the book with me on my trip, and decided to leave it at home, so I don’t have the dog-eared page references handy. First with the quick thoughts, then with the rant: – I hadn’t read anything by Baker before, at least knowingly (I’m sure I’ve read his bylined work in the New Yorker without noting…read more

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