Berfrois

Beer and Cider

Beer and Cider

There is no beverage which I have liked "to live with" more than beer; but I have never had a cellar large enough to accommodate much of it, or an establishment numerous enough...

Read More

Can fiction compete with history?

Can fiction compete with history?

In the autumn of 1967, the novelists Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa were drinking in a London pub. The conversation paused on Edmund Wilson’s book of portraits from the American Civil War, Patriotic Gore, and then, Fuentes recalled, they had a moment of inspiration – why not...

Read More

The Threat to Printed Books

The Threat to Printed Books

One would like to be as cheerful as this about the future of the printed book, or even the book, but the analogy with newspapers, which each year continue to record further steep declines in sales, leading to the extinction of many venerable titles, does not give us great...

Read More

Woolf, it seems, was predisposed to find Ulysses undeserving of Eliot’s praise…

Woolf, it seems, was predisposed to find Ulysses undeserving of Eliot’s praise…

In February of 1922, just after James Joyce's Ulysses appeared, Virginia Woolf wrote to her sister Vanessa, who was then in Paris: “for Gods sake make friends with Joyce. I particularly want to know what he’s like.”

Read More

Street Haunting in Winter

Street Haunting in Winter

No one perhaps has ever felt passionately towards a lead pencil. But there are circumstances in which it can become supremely desirable to possess one; moments when we are set upon having an object, an excuse for walking half across London between tea and dinner.

Read More

Whenever you hear that whistle…

Whenever you hear that whistle…

I write in my rental apartment on Rue de Seine in Paris, while trying to simultaneously ignore the tolling of the church bells in my vicinity as well as the continuous barking of my next door neighbor, Georges. I have never seen him or his owners; however, given...

Read More

Karl Whitney: Roomy

Karl Whitney: Roomy

Why do we invest writers' rooms with any significance whatsoever? They’re big or small, bright or dank, smell bad or smell good: they’re rooms like any others.

Read More

On the Flying Time

On the Flying Time

Presentism—the notion that everything that exists is only what can and does exist right now—is countered in metaphysics by eternalism: the idea that time is not a process but a dimension, and in that dimension all reference points have equal validity, and thus all time, past, present, and future,...

Read More

In Three Days

In Three Days

It was a deliberately outlandish thing to do, setting up a booth at the largest, noisiest book expo in the world and inviting a small group of writers to sit there, talk, type, and edit a series of answers to the question “what is the future of publishing?”

Read More

We want the suffering and scandal in books to be real, but not so real….

We want the suffering and scandal in books to be real, but not so real….

There are few things to do in Anacostia, Maryland, besides visit the home of Frederick Douglass. It’s an estate called Cedar Hill, a large, white, red-gabled colonial with the type of rocking chair-laden porch that begs you to sit down with an iced tea and a bowl of strawberries.

Read More

Tjoa Shze Hui: 1920s

Tjoa Shze Hui: 1920s

Of the many witticisms that make up The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, one voiced by Picasso really gets under the skin. He says it, as I remember, while loafing around Gertrude Stein’s weekly picture exhibition at the rue de Fleurus, studying the foreigners who have come to pay...

Read More

Elias Tezapsidis on Lorentzen, Batuman, Lerner, Smallwood and Stein

Elias Tezapsidis on Lorentzen, Batuman, Lerner, Smallwood and Stein

Contemporary narrators feel entitled to their own realities now more than ever. The internet has created this fascinating binary, one in which individuals can become extremely aware of their circumstances or get lost in a delusional microcosm they created for themselves.

Read More

Driving With Virginia Woolf

Driving With Virginia Woolf

Bayeux Tapestry Horses in Battle of Hastings by Virginia Woolf Evening is kind to Sussex, for Sussex is no longer young, and she is grateful for the veil of evening as an elderly woman is glad when a shade is drawn over a lamp, and only the outline of...

Read More

Ezequiel Alemian on Boris Pasternak

Ezequiel Alemian on Boris Pasternak

During a visit to Buenos Aires a few years ago, the saxophonist Ornette Coleman, an old trailblazer of free jazz, went out to explore the area near the hotel where he was staying his first night in the city, and got lost.

Read More