I am going to see The Tree of Life very, very soon and it will change me forever. Here are the last things the old me read and enjoyed.

Over at The Morning News Jessica Francis Kane has a great essay about meeting one of the survivors of the subject of her first book, the Bethnal Green Tube Disaster and, more broadly, about hierarchies — what makes something “historical fiction?” does that descriptor diminish the work in question? — and the way in which we process fictionalizations of tragedies. “It seems fiction is fine unless a subject is raw—then we think nonfiction is required. We want facts. ….At its best, fiction helps us understand how we feel about the facts we think we know—the facts we think we’ll never forget, but do. “Fiction must stick to facts,” Virginia Woolf wrote, “and the truer the facts the better the fiction.” The relationship between “fact” and “fiction” becomes thornier — simpler and more complex — when people who survived the tragedy enter the equation: “His point was loud and clear. A story doesn’t bring a single one of them back. But as Alf talked, his tone a bit argumentative, expressing his opinion about the causes of the disaster, he illustrated my point too. Tragedies are full of stories. Every version is different.” If you’re interested, our interview with Jessica is here.

In The Rumpus today: The great Roxane Gay (seriously, if you aren’t reading Ms. Gay’s work, jump to it! she’s wonderful) interviews the great Blake Butler! Here’s Butler on the “physicality” of his writing: “I don’t know, really. I just keep talking about it. I guess it’s the only thing left that is always right there. I never felt my body and I were the same person, so instead of writing about emotional relationships or like human interaction I write about flesh and houses, and each of those as the other. Someone told me once it was a cry for help.”

Read these excellent, provocative essays about the short story by William Giraldi and Storyville founder Paul Vidichy, preferably back-to-back. I’m still digesting, but hope to right something up about them soon. (no promises, obvi)

If you haven’t already, please take a minute and make a donation to Tornado Relief Efforts. Ways to help: The Red Cross, Feeding America, Heart to Heart.

Chad Harbach was interviewed by Bloomberg News this morning! The interviewers, who want to know a lot about all the $$$$ Chard Harbach made and call n + 1 a “high-end literary magazine,” are really adorable. Check it out.

Alyssa Rosenberg finally watches The Muppets Take Manhattan, and riffs on its relevance to “Milennials:” “But if Avenue Q is the show that you watch as you look back with nostalgia and a little bitterness on your own post-college naivete, The Muppets Take Manhattan is a sweetened warning about the challenges of entering the labor force, especially at a time when it’s hard to find an entry-level job in what you hope will be your field, complete with visual references to the New York Observer and Ed Koch wishing he could find a frog to balance the budget.” I like muppets!

For those of you who write me angry emails about typographical errors on the site, here is a classic Onion article: “Fanzine Marred by Typo.”

Wright Thompson, the greatest working sportswriter in America, has written a really amazing profile of Harvey Updyke, who was accused of poisoning the iconic trees at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn, Ala.

Holy Fuck! Golden State Warriors guard Monta Ellis got a giant tree tattooed on his chest! I mean, because, obviously. Tree of life!

A young Conan O’Brien makes a cameo in Nicholson Baker’s U + I!  SF Weekly has the scoop:

But its strangest aspect by far must be Baker’s description of a rare encounter with Updike. In 1984, at a party in the basement of the Harvard Lampoon castle, Baker spotted his hero and waited for a chance to approach him.

Only one problem. The Updike-blocking skills of a young Conan O’Brien.

Baker writes:

“I spied on [Updike] as he stood in a rearward room, giving serious advice to an exceedingly tall person who was the editor or president of the Lampoon that year.”The president of the Lampoon in ’84: Conan O’Brien. (That same year at Harvard, O’Brien engineered the public theft of Burt Ward’s Robin costume — by the Penguin!) ….

One page later, O’Brien’s figure gets another mention, this time in a burst of jealousy:

“Yes, the editor/president with whom he had been in close conference was very tall and skinny; but I was tall and skinny, too — perhaps taller, skinnier!”

Nicholson Baker = boss.

Deadspin goes after Chris Berman for being an arrogant shit. amen.

NY Mag has a pair of excellent stories about Fox News chief Roger Ailes and the former “right wing hit man” who is trying to bring him down, Media Matters founder David Brock. Both want to be kingmakers for their respective parties. This is simplifying things a bit, but both are motivated more by rage at their opponents and ambition than by ideology. Brock reminds me a lot of Daniel Ellsburg, another hero whose unquestioning belief  in his own righteousness (whether for the right, where both began, or the left, where they ended up) makes me more than a little uncomfortable. And Ailes? Umm:

Going back to the 2008 campaign, Axelrod had maintained an off-the-­record dialogue with Ailes. He had faced off against Ailes in a U.S. Senate campaign in the early eighties and respected him as a fellow political warrior and shaper of narrative. But early on, Axelrod learned he couldn’t change Ailes’s outlook on Obama. In one meeting in 2008, Ailes told Axelrod that he was concerned that Obama wanted to create a national police force.

“You can’t be serious,” Axelrod replied. “What makes you think that?”

Ailes responded by e-mailing Axelrod a YouTube clip from a campaign speech Obama had given on national service, in which he called for the creation of a new civilian corps to work alongside the military on projects overseas.

Later, Axelrod related in a conversation that the exchange was the moment he realized Ailes truly believed what he was broadcasting.


I am having an allergy attack! Achoo achoo! Just like this puppy:

Somebody get him a hanky!

I hope you have a great weekend! I will post stuff about Tree of Life after I see it.

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