Gatz and Gatsby

The curtain rises on a dingy office. It could be the 1980’s: a man sits silently at an ancient computer screen and pushes buttons but nothing happens.  In frustration, he rifles through a box next to the computer, and finds there a copy of  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. He begins reading aloud -  and gradually, without undue artifice, other co-workers come and go and assume various roles. Our original Office Man becomes Fitzgerald's narrator, Nick Carraway, while his colleagues provide other dialogue. Thus adapted to the stage, the short novel unfolds over six hours like a brilliant origami of the layered contradictions in American life.

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Book Reviewing

I began my writing life several decades ago as a book reviewer, but I’ve largely kicked the habit. It isn’t that reviewing isn’t important or interesting; it is a vital democratic conversation about books, journalism, ideas, and imagination. As a young aspiring writer I fell into it easily, maybe too easily. But after reviewing a few score volumes as I have tried to do -- carefully, generously, critically -- one tends to get a bit of genre fatigue. One tires of praising and of scolding. And having written a couple of books myself, and seen them (fairly and unfairly) praised and scolded, the urge to judge others diminishes even further. 

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The Fog of War at the Book Fair

I am a book collector and have a weakness for modern first editions, although many of these are no longer in my price range (or that of anyone I know). And so, on a Saturday morning last April, I dropped by the Park Avenue Armory, site of the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, hoping to simply say hello to a few dealer friends, peruse the books quickly, and get back home in time to catch the Mets-Braves game. As it happened, I found a nice copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s anti-war masterpiece, Slaughterhouse-Five. But what really interested me was a rather incongruous sideshow, also with a wartime theme.

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