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Here's a perennially useful guide for choosing what book to read next: think of a title you've long known by name but never read, go straight to a library or bookstore, get it, and read it. Through decades that guide has steered me to Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Boswell's Life of Johnson, Hugo's Les Miserables, all of Austen, Dickens, and Twain, and many, many more.

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A few months ago my wife and I visited New York's Whitney Museum and I wrote a column inspired by the art there that broke all the rules of realism. This month we toured a Museum of Modern Art exhibit of sculptures that Pablo Picasso created over six decades and felt a similar inspiration. "Fecund, fecund"—that's the word that kept going through my mind.  Continue reading...
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As a general rule, we think of writing as being built from words and words being built from letters. True enough: words and letters are writing's basic building blocks. Yet the more I read and write, the more I sense the power of expressions.  Continue reading...
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Recently I spent an afternoon with friends wandering through Manhattan's Whitney Museum, gazing at a wide variety of canvases by Frank Stella, Jackson Pollack, Joseph Albers, Mark Rothko, and many more. As we wandered, my skepticism (you call this art?) gave way to admiration (wow, abandoning pictures could be fun!), and to thinking: hey, we writers could do the same thing with words, not using them to paint pictures but scattering them willy-nilly like Jackson Pollack's dribbles.  Continue reading...
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In the seventy-one columns I've written for the Visual Thesaurus, I've stuck to writing on writing, examining the art's principles and its quirks. But now with the presidential debates growing hot as autumn grows cold, I'd like to say a few words about the role of writing and politics in our democracy.  Continue reading...
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Since fiction writers can conjure up big chunks of a text by consulting only their imaginations, we often think of fiction as more personal than nonfiction. But when reading the most fact-based nonfiction, I and many readers still want to connect one-to-one, soul-to-soul, with the writer as well as with the characters.  Continue reading...
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Life, Life, LIFE!

Whether the words, spaces, and punctuation marks appear in The Iliad or Don Quixote, a fluffy sportswear catalogue or a dense computer manual, the goal of all writing is to get some tiny bit of the gargantuan energy we call life onto the page so that other humans can read it and say, "Yes, that writing describes the life I know."  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 1-7 of 76 Articles