How Reality TV Helped Me Become A Novelist

The reality-TV industry at the turn of the century was a bit like being on the Island of Misfit Toys. There were a ton of other folks like me who’d hoped to be elsewhere and were often still trying to get there. We had no clue how long the reality-TV craze would last, or how substantially it could support us in the meantime. I certainly wouldn’t have believed I’d still be working in the genre by 2015, or that in the intervening years, it would bring me to truck yards in the Arctic, cliffside roads in Bolivia, and rose ceremonies in Encino.

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Remembering Denis Johnson (Granta)

I took only one photo of Denis (from behind, while he was driving his Jeep) and never once asked him to sign a book or discuss writing, either his or mine. Maybe other people did. I just felt that there’s a time and a place for that kind of thing and this wasn’t it. The splendor of his ease leveled many of our incipient imbalances. This man’s on vacation and thusly, so are we.

The Guardian: Top Ten Books about Food

“A good dinner is of importance to good talk,” Virginia Woolf writes in A Room of One’s Own. “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. The lamp in the spine does not light on beef and prunes.”

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Notes From the McSweeney's Tours: Report From Los Angeles

I was at a bar down the street from Skylight Books when Salvador Plascencia, Eli Horowitz, and Josh Bearman walked in. At the time, I was a lowly writer, the least significant personage of a West Side contingent led by 826LA's Pilar Perez. The three men walked into the bar and I couldn't see their faces for the glare of the sun reflecting off a hummus plate. The first thing I noticed about Eli was his glow-in-the-dark skull ring. I've only met one other man who wears that kind of ring.

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The Day Your Music Collection Died

Everyone knows that Tuesday is the day the new music comes out, and for my parents, June 4th, 1984 was the last great Tuesday of them all.

They had never been so ecstatic about a music purchase before, at least not since “The Big Chill” soundtrack was released, and that was a dogpile of re-packaged boomer nostalgia – this time, it was new music. After a giddy round-trip in the Dodge Omni to the Target in Cottage Grove, the plastic wrap was sheared from the LP sleeve, the album reverentially placed on the old Akai turntable, and the needle dropped on “Born In The U.S.A.,” the first track from the Bruce Springsteen album of the same name.

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The Shortest Possible Highlight Reel

When I was a little kid, I saw no good reason to go outside.

There are often plenty of reasons to stay indoors in Minnesota, but even during those perfect summer days that once made hordes of naïve and hardy Scandinavians consider the Upper Midwest an ideal place for permanent settlement, I remained in my room. My own mom, the granddaughter of a Swede and a Norwegian, would lean her stout body into my doorway and ask out of amazement, “Why don’t you want to go outside? It’s PERFECT out!”

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What Was I Thinking?

Dear vermiform appendix,

It pains me to write this. But at least now I can write. For a while, there was too much pain to do anything besides curl up in a ball and drool like a sad walrus on an unloved beach. Now, with some space between us, I can finally share my side of the story, and with an obvious debt to Alanis Morissette, there are some things, dear appendix, that you oughta know.

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