I can tell you only what I found helpful.
February 14, 2021
Every reader is a victim and a bully.
December 3, 2020
Is it from your life? Did this really happen?
To me, a sentence that serves as a purely functional join in the syntax of the novel, like “They drove towards the building,” is as much hard work, and requires as much attentiveness, as a sentence like this one from Afternoon Raag, my second novel, in which the narrator is describing his mother’s hair: “It falls in long, black strands, but each strand has a gentle, complicated undulation travelling through it, like a mild electric shock or a thrill, that gives it a life of its own; it is visually analogous to a tremolo on a musical note.” I don’t consider “They drove towards the building” easier to write than that sentence from Afternoon Raag. If anything, it’s more difficult.
The act of discernment is not merely punished; it’s made infelicitous.
September 7, 2020
People are always accusing me of living in the n+1 office. Did I live there?
September 7, 2020
I can’t help but hope for some other, better New York.
September 1, 2020
There are writers who should not be allowed to vanish and go silent for so long, much as they might prefer to do so
It was the wrong moment in American letters to be a gay, Black man writing about the South. It didn’t matter if you could write a sex scene of the kind that would, twenty years in the future, earn Garth Greenwell a national book award nomination, while also channeling the blues cadences of Alfred Murray. If you weren’t Toni Morrison or, on the mass market side, Terry McMillan, you weren’t anybody. Publishing had no room for a diversity of diversity.
July 27, 2020
or, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to a Review of a Kierkegaard Biography
I listened to music and podcasts. I called my sister; I called my friend Anika. My wife called me every hour or so to check in. I missed my dad. He was always the guy to call on a long drive—time was the one thing he had heaps of, sitting home depressed all day, and he loved to give it away to whoever wanted it. He was perhaps the greatest talker—but also listener—I have ever known.
The pandemic had lifted up the rotting log of philosophy, and the philosophers were wriggling about in the sunlight.
April 17, 2020
The bored hours spent in quarantine feel nothing like the bored hours I spent as a kid.
March 19, 2020
I take a lot of pleasure in our correspondence.