MacFarquhar’s long profile of MacArthur Fellow Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explores the novelist’s legacy and the torments of fame in Nigeria and America.
Larisa MacFarquhar walks her readers through the experience of being investigated by children’s protective services, then of carrying out the investigation, and finally shares the stories of several families in New York City who have encountered the agency.
“When she wakes in the morning, she likes to start writing right away, before she speaks, because whatever remnants sleep has left are the gift her brain has given her for the day. Her dream life is important to the balance of her mind: it’s the place where she experiences disorder. Her dreams are archetypal, mythological, enormous, full of pageantry—there are knights and monsters. She has been to the crusades in her dreams more than once.
“When she’s starting a new book, she needs to feel her way inside the characters, to know what it’s like to be them. There is a trick she uses sometimes, which another writer taught her. Sit quietly and withdraw your attention from the room you’re in until you’re focussed inside your mind. Imagine a chair and invite your character to come and sit in it; once he is comfortable, you may ask him questions. She tried this for the first time when she was writing The Giant, O’Brien: the giant came in, but, before sitting down in the chair, he bent down and tested it, to see if it would take his weight. On that occasion, she never got any further, because she was so excited that she punched the air and shouted ‘Yes!’ But from then on she could imagine herself in the giant’s body.”
In his columns, Paul Krugman is belligerently, obsessively political, but this aspect of his personality is actually a recent development. His parents were New Deal liberals, but they weren’t especially interested in politics. In his academic work, Krugman focussed mostly on subjects with little political salience. During the eighties, he thought that supply-side economics was stupid, but he didn’t think that much about it.