The Wrong Marlowe

The story of Dan Marlowe, a pulp writer who suffered from amnesia, befriended an ex-con, and later inspired writers like Stephen King:

“Physicians thought the amnesia was psychosomatic, brought on by stress and money troubles, but there were hints of physical problems too. Before his brain emptied out, Marlowe had been laid low by crushing migraines, and there was evidence he’d had similar problems during his youth. In time, Marlowe would tell people the memory loss resulted from a stroke, and the symptoms he described (weakness on his left side, for instance) seemed to bear that out.

“In any case, his creative-writing ability vanished, and his life fast-reversed 20 years. He was trapped in a noir plot eerily similar to that of Never Live Twice, the 1964 Marlowe thriller in which amnesia blanks out the mind of government operative Jackrabbit Smith, who has to fight his way back to his old life, blasting bad guys and spanking a woman psychologist along the way.”

Published: Mar 10, 2012
Length: 12 minutes (3,170 words)

Letter from Detroit

Another perspective on the city’s struggles, and the attempts to revive it:

“A recent New York Times article lauded Detroit as a ‘Midwestern Tribeca’ of socially aware folk; but off of its bustling main drag, Corktown is surrounded by Detroit’s burned-out industrial structures and houses, weedy lots, and subsidized housing. For every white entrepreneur in an inner-city neighborhood, a score of young, college-educated kids live in dense, hip suburbs like Royal Oak and Ferndale. The Detroit perceived by artists like Catie and Marianne — often from privileged, suburban backgrounds — is radically different from the city visible to EMS workers. I have doubts about the city’s oft-vaunted creative scene, which I was part of for much of the year: to what extent were we dancing to electro-pop while Detroit burned?”

Published: Jan 17, 2012
Length: 13 minutes (3,401 words)

Heroine Chic

Before Wonder Woman there was Miss Fury, the first female superhero, introduced in 1941:

“Miss Fury was created, written, and drawn by a woman, June Tarpé Mills, who published under the more sexually ambiguous Tarpé Mills. Had Miss Fury entered an enduring canon like DC’s, it’s possible that the template for female superheroes, as well as for superhero comic readership, would have depended more on the influence and perspective of actual women.”

Author: Evie Nagy
Published: Jan 12, 2012
Length: 8 minutes (2,177 words)

Literary Transactions and Their Vicissitudes

Joan Williams said it best herself when confronted with William Faulkner’s curious and cutting response to a book-jacket-blurb request from her editor. “It was obviously,” she said, “a very petulant kind of thing. Why couldn’t he have just given me a nice quotation?”

Yet she knew why. For five years, 1949 to 1953, Williams and Faulkner experienced an ongoing tug of war over the personal and professional. Faulkner tried the personae of mentor, father figure, and literary conduit in an effort to have a love affair that trumped the other roles. Williams at 20 was no match for Faulkner at 50. She knew she had much to gain in the literary world from his affection and attention — and much to learn from him about the craft — but her reluctance to have sex with Faulkner made a sustainable love affair impossible.

Published: Dec 11, 2011
Length: 13 minutes (3,309 words)

Zell to L.A. Times: Drop Dead

And so began the improbable last chapter in the fall of a major newspaper, as chronicled by O’Shea in The Deal from Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers. Among other things, the book is a reminder that whenever you think things can’t get worse, they can. They can get much, much worse.

I was there, at the paper, working at the magazine, with a good critic’s seat, up close and on the aisle. As we were living it, we knew this tawdry drama signaled yet another sea change for newspapers, with potentially devastating consequences for our democracy. It was also, thanks to Zell and his cronies, more entertaining than it had any right to be.

Published: Nov 9, 2011
Length: 29 minutes (7,414 words)

A Portis Reader

Words that are not lost on me as I attempt to understand, with the few resources available, Charles Portis the person. Words not lost as I sit down to write anything, but especially this — an attempt to peer at a brilliant, funny, but altogether unknown-to-the-public author. As I wonder what he sees from his Arkansas window at night before bed, whether he uses slippers, and, if so, to whom this footwear would be famous. What he might and might not care to read, if he were to read this.

Published: Sep 2, 2011
Length: 24 minutes (6,036 words)

Cut and Paste and Run

So, I find myself wondering, what am I going to do about the man who I think plagiarized me? Sue him? I’ve bleated to a few lawyers. Humiliate him in front of his editor? I’ve written her. Shame him? I’m writing this. My anger has the evanescence of an ephemeral stream. It dries up, then it comes gushing up in a basement two blocks away.

Published: Aug 20, 2011
Length: 18 minutes (4,670 words)

Larry Flynt at Home

Terry Southern: “Den Hopper called me from Larry Flynt’s: ‘I’ve sent you a first-class round-trip ticket, and I want you to come out. I have a proposition for you. Take my word, it’s a good thing. I’ll meet the plane.’ And so I went out without knowing anything except that Den had recommended it. Den did meet me at the airport and he said, ‘Man, you’re going to dig this scene. This is fantastic!'”

Author: Jean Stein
Published: Jun 12, 2011
Length: 14 minutes (3,550 words)