Kathryn Schulz’s meditation on insomnia, on staying up late and writing deep into the night.
I’d heard that the New Yorker excerpt was the opening of Jonathan Franzen’s new novel Freedom, but it turns out it is preceded in the novel by this: “The news about Walter Berglund wasn’t picked up locally–he and Patty had moved away to Washington two years earlier and meant nothing to St. Paul now–but the urban gentry of Ramsey Hill were not so loyal to their city as not to read the New York Times. According to a long and very unflattering story in the Times, Walter had made quite a mess of his professional life out there in Washington. His old neighbors had some difficulty reconciling the quotes about him in the Times (‘arrogant,’ ‘high-handed,’ ‘ethically compromised’) with the generous, smiling, red-faced 3M employee they remembered pedaling his commuter bicycle up Summit Avenue in February snow; it seemed strange that Walter, who was greener than Greenpeace and whose own roots were rural, should be in trouble now for conniving with the coal industry and mistreating country people. Then again, there had always been something not quite right about the Berglunds.”
“From this bleak backdrop unspools West Of Sunset, Stewart O’Nan’s sparkling and frequently delightful fictionalized take on those years. It’s a setting that’s near impossible for culture buffs to resist; for a certain subset of nerd, this is a sort of literary Avengers, collecting Ernest Hemingway and Dorothy Parker alongside O’Nan’s delicate and sensitive portrayals of Fitzgerald and wife Zelda, to say nothing of Humphrey Bogart and a cameo by Katharine Hepburn, eating soup.”