Parul Sehgal on the Work of a Critic

I love this. It makes me think of not only Sehgal herself but also Cynthia Ozick, Dwight Garner, and V.S. Pritchett.

I don’t think about criticism in terms of authority. I think about it in terms of charm and persuasion, which anybody can possess. Your authority is in your sentences, in your lede, in how attractive your own prose is. To be a critic is to say, “Try sitting next to me.” That’s the conspiratorial nature of criticism. If you love particular critics, it always feels like they’re talking to you.


The Cut: How I Get It Done: Parul Sehgal, Book Critic

Where the Heart Beats

I’m enjoying Elif Shafak’s surreal novel “The Gaze,” which explores beauty, ugliness, and how we distance ourselves from those we’re ultimately connected to.

Wherever a person hurts, that’s where his heart beats. Keramet Mumi Keske Memis Efendi pressed his fingers to his eyes. To no avail. It didn’t stop. His heart beat in his eyes. And suddenly, the pieces were revited together. He found a way to unite women’s suffering with his own suffering. Because everything was dependent on everything else.

(The Gaze, translated by Brendan Freely, p. 43)

A Coffee Recommendation

This blog is ostensibly about books, music, and coffee, and it occurs to me I’ve never written about coffee. So here’s a recommendation.

I usually start my day with a cup of a strong Italian roast from Port City Brewers. But for my second cup of coffee, which I usually drink midday, I’ve come to like Alma de la Tierra, an organic coffee from Peet’s. It’s silky with a hint of citrus.

Give it a try!

Peet's Alma de la Tierra
Recommended for a good cuppa

John McPhee on Writing a Lead

From Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process:

I have often heard writers say that you have written your lead you have in a sense written half of your story. Finding a good lead can require that much time, anyway–through trial and error. You can start almost anywhere. Several possibilities will occur to you. Which one are you going to choose? It is easier to say what not to choose. A lead should not be cheap, flashy, meretricious, blaring. After a tremendous fanfare of verbal trumpets, a mouse comes out of a hole blinking. . . .

The lead–like the title–should be a flashlight that shines down into the story.

(p. 50).