10. On Writing


Stephen King


You must not come lightly to the blank page.

In the crowded genre of books about writing, we can now declare Stephen King’s On Writing to be a standard. It’s so often read and recommended that many who have never tried a word of King’s fiction will yet have this one on their shelves. And for good reason. King, whose stories have entered our cultural lexicon in a way that other fiction mega-sellers, like John Grisham or Danielle Steel, couldn’t dream of, is as successful and prolific a guide as you could wish for. Continue reading “10. On Writing”


6. Green Grass, Running Water

Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King

Thomas King


“There are no truths, Coyote,” I says. “Only stories.”

In October of 1829, President Andrew Jackson wrote a letter to an army major who was soon to be passing through the country of the Choctaw tribe in present-day Alabama and Mississippi. The government was working to induce the tribe to peacefully cede their lands to American settlers. In his letter, Jackson instructs his emissary to promise them new lands, further west, which would be theirs for good. The major, wrote Jackson, should tell the Choctaw that they would live,

There, beyond the limits of any State, in possession of land of their own, which they shall possess as long as Grass grows or water runs.

Continue reading “6. Green Grass, Running Water”

3. The Song Machine

John Seabrook The Song Machine

John Seabrook


I saw the sign
And it opened up my eyes
I saw the sign

Early in The Song Machine, John Seabrook describes what must be the defining feature of pop music today. He opens with a scene involving “the Boy,” his fifth-grader son who has begun to listen to Top 40 stations as he rides with his dad to and from school every day. Stirred by his child’s new palate, Seabrook starts listening to Top 40 as well (which, he immediately corrects us, is properly called Contemporary Hits Radio, or CHR). He reluctantly abandons his dad rock for Flo Rida and the like, as a sort of bonding exercise with his son.

Seabrook’s initial reaction to modern pop is that of anyone as highly cultivated and deeply refined as he. He asks himself:

Is this music? Continue reading “3. The Song Machine”

2. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Dave Eggers


Could he really be doing all this for attention? Could he really be milking his own past to solicit sympathy from a too-long indifferent public?

It’s San Francisco in the early nineties. The Silicon Valley playground of today has not yet devoured the grubby hippie paradise of the mid-century. Instead, the two seemed for a time to be moving in parallel. Startup culture was already there, an incubator for cool, new things made with creative freedom and virtually no hope of profit. Few would have seen it, like droves of overachieving tech utopians now do, as billionaire’s first steps. Continue reading “2. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”