Category: Writing

The (Pineapple) Express Lane to Brilliance

Pineapple Express, the Judd Apatow-produced box-office hit, rashly combines two genres that are as antithetical to each other as operating heavy machinery and smoking dope: the stoner comedy and the action shoot ’em up.  The heroes of the movie are Dale (Seth Rogen), a shambling process server who witnesses a murder while enjoying some wickedly...

In Print

Mr. Russ Stanton, the Editor of the Los Angeles Times, the largest news-gathering organization west of the Mississippi and my home-town newspaper, delivered an extraordinary message in the Sunday edition. What he wrote — that the future of the Times, in print and online, rests on its ability to deliver news and information that is “unique,...

Advice for Aspiring Artists

If you want to sell what you create, you must tailor your creativity to the marketplace or have a creative sensibility that, fortuitously, hews closely to the “average” person’s, someone who, thanks to his “average” outlook is probably not an artist. Given the tastes and expectations of most consumers, it’s impossible for David Foster Wallace...

Fear and Whining in Las Vegas

Sprinkled among the reviews for my book “The Smart Money” like so many dog droppings upon an emerald lawn, several notices emanating from Las Vegas — where much of the book’s action take place — have claimed profound disappointment with my use of nicknames for some of the characters. These dismayed critics seem to think...

Good Writers

Readers of my books often ask me what I like to read when I’m not writing. And whenever I post a Thought lamenting our aesthetic culture’s descent into exalted mediocrity and irrelevance, the email correspondence usually includes queries like, “Well, if you don’t think Dan Brown is a good writer, who is, smarty pants?”  I...

In Praise of Lewis Lapham

The venerable editor of Harper’s magazine, Lewis Lapham, recently announced his semi-retirement. The most alarming consequence of this decision is that he plans on writing his monthly “Notebook” essay only six times a year. This is like saying you will henceforth be limited to every other breath of air. Lapham’s essays aren’t merely good reading....

The Foul-Mouthed Umpire Redeemed

Yesterday’s paper carried a column by the sportswriter Bill Plaschke about Bruce Froemming, an MLB umpire closing in on the all-time record for most games officiated. Plaschke’s gimmick is to write one sentence paragraphs, as though he were being paid by the inch. Not the word. He’s also well known for essaying sentimental stories that...

Sections of the Newspaper

The first section — the “A” section — of the Los Angeles Times, focuses on international news and domestic stories of national interest. It is here that one learns how ugly and cruel life is for most of our brothers and sisters living in places other than America and Europe. The next section is the...

The Power of Illogic

Lost among the impassioned finger-pointing that has accompanied the opening of “The Da Vinci Code,” the blockbuster movie based on the blockbuster book, is an alarming trend gripping our society’s discourse (or lack thereof): the inclination to justify one’s position without offering reasonable justification. Organized religion has been pulling this trick with no small measure...

Poem: Quatrains

According to the primers, resolute and stout Three patterns are permissible when writing quatrains out. ABAB, AABB, and AAAA Are proper forms, no matter how passe.   The scanning lines, we’re told, should always add to four Not two, not three, and certainly not more. Transgressions bold, though heartfelt at the core Will turn the...