Just as our team’s quarterback threw a devastating interception, my wife’s iPhone, perched at the edge of the couch, made an odd sound. It was a FaceTime video call from her mother, in New York. She wanted us to watch as my brother-in-law opened a holiday gift. At one point during the call, my wife pointed at the TV and offered up an exaggerated thumbs-down: the couple on the show had decided to go with an all-white motif for their dining room; it looked sterile. “So lame,” she mouthed to me, out of view of the FaceTime camera. Right about then, a tweet from Slate caught my eye: “Man Distracted by Electronic Device Falls to His Death Off San Diego Cliff.”
American schools allowed an entire generation of students to fall behind mathematically.
This pain accompanied me through my novel writing process. The Suicide of Claire Bishop took six years from conception to bookshelf. Most of this time, I was on the road at writing residencies. I didn’t have a home, no desk to call my own. But it was the most luxurious homelessness you could imagine: a gorgeous view out every new window, lunch delivered to your door, a constant community of artists and writers. This lifestyle was addicting, and I didn’t stop until I had finished my novel. At my last residency, I looked around at the musty, supposedly haunted room – the Springfield Art Association’s Edwards Place, one of the oldest homes in America, which was beautiful but really not meant to be occupied – and thought: I think I need a home now.
“The Portable Veblen” is a novel of such festive originality that it would be a shame to miss.
Artificial food. That’s what humans eat. I say this to anyone who will listen. ‘Oh yes,’ comes the reply. ‘The more’s the pity. Cheap, nasty, imitation food-like substances. It’s high time to return to natural food.’ But, no, I mean artificial in its original sense of man-made, produced by humans, artfully created.