Category: Writing

All Atwitter

First MySpace, then Facebook, and now Twitter. The idea of simultaneously communicating with hundreds or thousands or millions of “friends” has gone from clunky functionality to improved efficiency to instant success, “connecting” people no matter their geographic or spiritual distance. Finally, after much fretting and fomenting, we’ve overcome our existential solitude. We are one.  That’s...

The Artist as Saint

His nickname among musicians was “Prince of Darkness.” According to many who claim to have known him well, and according to an accrued reputation bordering on myth, Miles Davis was a jerk.  Based on evidence available for review on YouTube, as well as eyewitness accounts shared anecdotally and personally, Keith Jarrett can be insufferably obnoxious....

Brooding on Death

The remains of my dear friend Ella the dog arrived from the crematorium in a nice fabric-covered box. The ashes themselves were in a plastic freezer bag, which was probably a good thing, since in addition to a fine grey powder there were many pinky-nail-size bone fragments and flakes from the few teeth Ella retained...

Great Writing

Relatives sometimes discover a book that brings them so much enjoyment that they want to share the experience with everyone they meet. That’s cool. Unfortunately for me, most of the books they like, despite glowing accolades from literary critics such as Oprah Winfrey’s intern and the editors at Vogue, are painfully difficult to read, since I...

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....