“I started zoning out a little. My eyes drifted over toward my cat. Mr. Patterson pulled me right back in by saying, ‘Once you have the outline, start writing dude, you’re ready.’ It was that dude that woke me.” At The Awl, Patrick Hoffman reviews James Patterson’s MasterClass on writing. Pair with Bill Morris‘s account of losing his Pattersonian virginity at 32,000 feet.
Our love of The Atlantic's By Heart series continues with Azar Nafisi's contribution to the series: an essay on reading James Baldwin, the importance of literature to democracy, and how ultimately "we need literature to remind us how like each other we are, despite our differences." Pair with Justin Campbell's Millions essay on race, fatherhood and reading Baldwin.
Congrats are in order for Sergio de la Pava, who just won the $25,000 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Award for his debut novel, A Naked Singularity. For more on the novel, which holds an illustrious place in our Hall of Fame, check out our own Garth Risk Hallberg’s profile of the author from last year.
"I have often thought that if I were ever a drag queen, and more specifically that if I were ever a drag queen who was a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race, I would play Virginia Woolf — or rather, Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf — in the Snatch Game episode when the contestants don their very best celebrity impersonation." Untucking RuPaul's Drag Race at The Los Angeles Review of Books.
“You can’t be worrying how you sound. You can’t wonder whether you or your characters are likable or smart or interesting. You have to be inside the scene—the tactile world of tables and chairs and sunlight—attending to your characters, people who exist for you in nonvirtual reality.” Paris Review editor Lorin Stein writes for The New York Times about solitude in the age of the Internet and the future of the book.
In 1908, Leo Tolstoy sent "A Letter to a Hindu" to Tarak Nath Das, a leader of the Indian freedom movement. In it, Tolstoy made the case for nonviolent resistance as the only way for India to gain independence from Britain. You can read the letter, along with Mohandas Gandhi’s introduction, over here.
Some of the best novels out there -- Huckleberry Finn, Of Mice and Men -- deal largely with fictional friendships. Yet depictions of close friends that are central to the plot are considerably rare in modern novels. At The Guardian, AD Miller notes this isn’t the case for movies and TV shows, and suggests a number of reasons why. You could also read our own Kevin Hartnett on friendship in the age of Facebook.