Alexander Chee invites Ann Beattie, Matt Bell, and five other writers to reflect on the usage of the present tense, “the current preferred mode of the self-taught writer.” Pair with our own Michael Bourne’s essay on grammar and Anthony Doerr.
“In the morning, before we left, we presented my aunt with a gift from Indonesia, a package of luwak, one of four in Bon’s duffel. Civet coffee? she said, bemused. We were already savoring cups of coffee at her table, brewed in her coffee press from Arabica beans of her own supply.” An excerpt from Year in Reading alumnus Viet Thanh Nguyen's forthcoming novel appears in the new issue of Ploughshares.
When The Counselor (trailer here) opens in theaters this month, the occasion will mark a career milestone for Cormac McCarthy. The 80-year-old novelist has been writing original screenplays since the 1970s, but only one of them – a made-for-TV movie called The Gardener’s Son – was produced before this latest effort. Over at The Wall Street Journal, Alexandra Alter takes a look at the author’s involvement in the production of The Counselor, as well as its reception by several film industry insiders and devout McCarthy fans. ("McCarthy writing a sex scene is maybe not a great idea," one of them says.)
For a man who’s retired, Philip Roth is still oddly present in the literary world. Ever since he announced his intention to quit writing, he’s made a stream of public appearances, including an awards ceremony at Yaddo one week after claiming he’d never appear on stage again. So what gives? In The Baffler, J.C. Hallman explains why writers can never really quit, in a piece that nicely complements our own take on literary retirement. FYI, Hallman has written for us.