We submit that beginning a love story with the lede “I never intended to get a tortoise” pretty much guarantees that the reader will read to the end. In Sunday’s New York Times Style section, Caroline Leavitt puts our theory to the test. (If you like her essay, you might want to pre-order her new novel.)
We tend to assume that life stories, in mentally healthy people, are concrete things, assembled from events that are hard to twist or distort. Yet all of us shape our own stories in ways we can’t always see. At The Atlantic, Julie Beck explores the idea that life stories, as we construct them, form integral parts of our personalities.
There’s a certain narrative voice with an unspoken aim to exonerate the speaker from wrongdoing. It occurs in novels, though it’s most common in monologues, especially those which take up the entirety of a play. At Bookforum, Lurid and Cute author Adam Thirlwell lists a number of examples, including Hunger by Knut Hamsun and Wars I Have Seen by Gertrude Stein.
Year in Reading alum Maria Popova of Brain Pickings writes her first book review for The New York Times on Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs by Lisa Randall, a Harvard cosmologist. Randall proposes ”that a thin disk of dark matter in the plane of the Milky Way triggered a minor perturbation in deep space that caused the major earthly catastrophe that decimated the dinosaurs.” Jenny Hendrix writes about modern-day extinction for The Millions.
“It’s funny how as an author, I rarely notice what seems so obvious to other people: that I have obsessions and will write about them endlessly. Sad, lonely, self-loathing guy? Mid-20th and 21st century literature loves to write about that guy, and so do I. Reckless, self-aggrandizing, narcissist man? I like to write about him, too, though of course they are the same person. A person whose energy compels people to orbit him—family, friends, underlings, women.” The Rumpus talks with Woke Up Lonely author Fiona Maazel (who’s written for The Millions).