Elliott Smith, Torment Saint

Before Portlandia made my hometown’s quirks the object of loving ridicule, the most common complaint against the city was the rain. Fair. But in Portland, the rain is more ambient than pounding, surfaces reflecting the opalescent sky. Elliott Smith is the soundtrack to a wet Portland day–and he’s still in my head on green-gray day in New York. This October marks the 10-year anniversary of Smith’s death, and there’s a new biography: “Torment Saint: The Life of Elliott Smith,” by William Todd Schultz. What is the thing that Smith had that we haven’t heard since?  I asked Schultz to propose a few theories why Elliott Smith is still in our heads.  Torment Saint: The Life of Elliott Smith

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‘In Death’ and the Most Twisted Murders in Fiction

Murder: Be CreativeDrilled to the wall through the heartBeaten and drowned in a river by droidsStabbed through the heart with a stilettoPoisoned with a pieSuicide by hanging, induced by mind controlling virtual-reality gogglesRaped, sodomized and strangled with a Christmas garlandBled by artificial vampire fangsBludgeoned with a Maltese Falcon statue. These are just some of the deaths in J.D. Robb’s bestselling series featuring Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her husband, Roarke: “In Death.” Robb’s latest installment, “Thankless in Death,” is her 46th in the series, and by now Eve has dealt with a lot of creative carnage. Here, we pay tribute to the thrillers that have given us the ghastliest murderers and the most deranged demises that fiction has to offer, from Sherlock Holmes to Stephen King.

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I read all 600 pages, give or take, of “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” author Marisha Pessl’s new novel, “Night Film.” Like many of the books I still think about, I devoured it, and it drove me crazy. Here’s my review on Goodreads.

Special Topics in Calamity Fiction

Special Topics in Calamity Fiction

National Book Award for Fiction 2013: My Longlist Predictions

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It’s always fun to take bets on upcoming prizes, and this year the National Book Awards have given us a treat: a longlist! Herewith, my predictions for that list. Nathan Rostron’s National Book Award for Fiction longlist predictions: Tenth of … Continue reading

Thomas Pynchon Conspiracy Theories

With old J.D. gone, there aren’t many writers left who defy connectivity in all forms. Cheers to Thomas Pynchon, who (still, amazingly) resists simulacra propagation (as he might say).

Who is he, really?

Who is he, really?

Still, we can’t help but wonder… so I asked David Gilbert, Ramona Ausubel, Toby Barlow and Teddy Wayne to offer their Thomas Pynchon conspiracy theories.  Pilot? Pot Smuggler?  Sounds plausible to me.

Macbeth and Walter White

My talk with Texas public radio program Good Books Radio about Fictional Characters Who ‘Break Bad’:

With the final season of “Breaking Bad” ramping up, we’re eager to see just how far down the road to perdition Walter White will go. Walt’s turn to the dark side has plenty of literary precedence–from Macbeth to Jack Torrance in “The Shining” and “Gone Girl” Amy Dunne.