Writer Emily Gould on writing books, going into debt and navigating relationships. An excerpt from MFA VS NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction:
It was more like the failure occurred in tiny increments over the course of two years, after which it was too late to develop a solid Plan B.
I spent some of the advance on clothes that no longer fit my body/life, but mostly I spent it on taxes—New York even has a city tax, on top of the state and federal kind—and rent. I lived alone for three years in Brooklyn, paying $1,700 a month ($61,200 all told) for a pretty but small one-bedroom within eyeshot of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway. I also spent $400 a month on health insurance. At one point I thought I would find another full-time job after finishing the book, but then I must have convinced myself that teaching yoga part time would better enable my writing. I also thought that I would immediately start another book, which I would sell, like the first, before I’d written half of it. In order to believe this I had to cut myself off from all kinds of practical realities; considering these realities seemed like planning for failure. In retrospect it seems clear that I should never have bought health insurance, nor lived by myself.
PUBLISHED: Feb. 24, 2014
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5586 words)
Mike Tyson reflects on a childhood spent on the streets of Brooklyn, being bullied, getting into fights and stealing—and then meeting a man who would change his life:
"We sat down, and Cus told me he couldn’t believe I was only 13 years old. And then he told me what my future would be. ‘If you listen to me, I can make you the youngest heavyweight champion of all time.’
“Fuck, how could he know that shit? I thought he was a pervert. In the world I came from, people do shit like that when they want to perv out on you. I didn’t know what to say. I had never heard anyone say nice things about me before. I wanted to stay around this old guy because I liked the way he made me feel. I’d later realize that this was Cus’s psychology. You give a weak man some strength, and he becomes addicted.”
PUBLISHED: Oct. 20, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5061 words)
The writer on his experience being on the game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?":
"Did I mention on my questionnaire that I could perform a serviceable impression of Chewbacca? Did I offer that up to them as proof of my willingness to give them whatever they wanted in exchange for a chance at their money? Yes. Yes, I did. The rest of my interview in the cramped bowels of the Apollo Theatre was merely a formality. I would be good on the show because of X, Y, and Z. When I was twelve, I was an actor in a sex-ed video starring Bill Nye the Science Guy. I would spend a million dollars on the world’s greatest first-anniversary present for my wife. Can I do the Chewbacca now? Of course I can. It is a great and unholy sound, and for several seconds all talk in that room came to an end. A guy who recognized the noise for what it was clapped from somewhere back in the line. I boarded the train back to Brooklyn, uncertain that I had succeeded, though I needn’t have doubted the Wookiee’s allure. Two weeks later, I received a postcard informing me that I was part of the 'contestant pool,' and a week after that a producer called to tell me that my episode would shoot in seven days’ time."
PUBLISHED: Sept. 21, 2013
LENGTH: 23 minutes (5816 words)
The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg reflects on his early career working as a correspondent for Newsweek in San Francisco, covering Jefferson Airplane, Ronald Reagan and hippies:
"If the S.F. music scene (I quickly learned that 'Frisco' was a no-no) was scarcely known outside the Bay Area, and neither was the larger cultural phenomenon it drew strength from. The word 'hippie'—derived from 'hipster,' the nineteen-forties bebop sobriquet revived sixty years later in Brooklyn, Portland, and food co-ops in between—had been coined only a few months earlier, by Herb Caen, the Chronicle’s inimitable gossip columnist. (At the time, as often as not, people spelled it 'hippy.') Ralph J. Gleason, the Chron’s jazz critic, was the scene’s Dr. Johnson. (Pushing fifty, he was too old to be its Boswell.) Gleason’s protégé was the pop-music critic for the U.C. Berkeley’s student paper, the Daily Californian, Jann Wenner. But the national press had not taken much notice, if any. So getting something into Newsweek was a coup."
PUBLISHED: Aug. 15, 2013
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2143 words)
What it's like to grow up as a Muslim in America today. Although Muslims embrace their faith while facing discrimination, they also suffer from anxiety as a result from racial profiling:
"For me, this issue is personal. My son was born in America but has an Arabic surname and is growing up bilingual, although we are not religious in any direction. He has my lighter hair but his father’s colouring. Once, in an airport, a woman asked me what he was 'mixed with'. A look that fell just short of horror passed over her face when I replied, 'Iraqi.' I shudder to think of my son being on the receiving end of that look, just because of his name or the way his skin tans at the merest hint of summer.
"I am one of many parents who worry. Arwa Aziz, a 41-year-old mother of two boys, moved her youngest son Adam, now 13, from public school to a private Muslim school in Brooklyn because she was concerned about him being bullied. 'He got so shy as he was growing up, so I just thought he would be better off there,' Aziz told me while we talked at the Arab American Association, showing each other photos of our boys. 'I tell my kids that they’re second-generation Americans, I won’t let them make us feel weak.'"
PUBLISHED: July 19, 2013
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3850 words)
The story of Sadakichi Hartmann, a Japan-born poet who had befriended everyone from Walt Whitman to Ezra Pound and John Barrymore—and who once attempted to stage the first-ever "perfume concert" in New York:
"But no one had ever heard of a perfume concert. It was an invention so faddish the newspapers had inked themselves in excitement and still managed indifference by the second column. 'All lovers of good smells are expected to patronize the concert,' one hopeful feature began. However, 'It may be that after a time the olfactory nerve of the New York gatherings will become jaded, and will require smells of more and more pungency.' It was suggested Mr. Hartmann take a trip to Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal."
PUBLISHED: May 3, 2013
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5531 words)
Our favorite stories of the past week, from The New Republic, NPR, Washington Post, New England Review, Modern Farmer, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and a guest pick by Jon Tayler
PUBLISHED: April 20, 2013
[Fiction] A man reaches out to the woman who lives above him:
"Peter was an agoraphobic. He couldn’t tell you what that was a year ago, but he could describe to you now what it feels like to stand by the front door and feel the heat radiate off of the knob, so sure it could burn you if you touch it. He never would have guessed when he rented this one-bedroom basement apartment that it could become his waking coffin, that he would let her death bury him alive. It was the first place he found on Craigslist, the woman who owned the house was the first landlord to return his call, and he took it without inspecting the toilet or looking closer at the cracks in the ceiling."
PUBLISHED: April 16, 2013
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2999 words)