Tag Archives: WIll Hertel

Filling in the Blanks

Silicon Valley obsesses over automation and efficiency. If you have the money, the tech industry is happy to deliver the recipe and ingredients for French toast as well as provide a lift to work. Automated reminders on your phone keep you focused and efficient at work, while your calendar (synced with the office’s, of course) […]

The Relevant Novel

So-called Great American Novels examine the American identity, refusing to merely entertain. Yet notably few top bestsellers’ lists. They are a small sliver of an already pressed industry fighting with TV, the Internet, movies, and our smartphones for attention and relevancy. How can the next great novel be relevant in modern America when it’s competing […]

The Threat From Above

Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow is an exceptionally long and well-regarded novel, tackling the question of modernity and overwhelming technological change. In it, Slothrop, an American serviceman deployed in London at the end of World War Two with an uncanny ability to sense where rockets will strike the city, is subject to the machinations of shadowy […]

Minimalism vs. Maximalism

Since the mid 20th Century, American writing has been broadly divided into two schools, minimalism and maximalism, each exemplified by the dueling greats, Hemingway and Faulkner. Whereas Hemingway relied on sparse prose, scrubbed of metaphor and symbolism, Faulkner was the opposite: his sentences beautifully rambled across the page, and his characters and their shameful histories […]

The Marathon of Infinite Jest

A novel 1,079 pages long is not the best one to start reading on a dare. But after my brother insulted my reading abilities, I had to. Of course, I was unprepared. Traveling all over Boston, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest weaved a tale of drug addiction, tennis fanatics, and Canadian extremists all the while […]

The Something Wonderful of Cormac McCarthy

If there is a literary late bloomer, it is Cormac McCarthy. For much of his writing career, Cormac lived in obscurity and squalor. His first novel, The Orchard Keeper, was published in 1965. But despite his strong reputation, 30 years later, McCarthy’s books never sold more than 5,000 hardcover copies. That included his Blood Meridian, […]

Writing In, and Around, the Box

The “dream within a dream” narrative device of Inception is nothing new—writers have been nestling stories within stories for years. But while literary techniques come and go, few authors have stretched the definition of a novel farther than Mark Z. Danielewski. Twisting the haunted house trope onto its head, Danielewski’s premier novel House of Leaves […]