On Writing

Mary Gordon: A Writer's Tools

Writing by hand is laborious, and that is why typewriters were invented.  But I believe that the labor has virtue, because of its very physicality.  For one thing it involves flesh, blood and the thingness of pen and paper, those anchors that remind us that, however thoroughly we lose ourselves in the vortex of our invention, we inhabit a corporeal world.

I know that I talk about my pens and notebooks the way the master of a seraglio talked about his love slaves.  But let me tell you about my notebooks and my pens. 

Jane Fonda's Workout Book



Jane Fonda's Workout Book, published in 1981, transformed the star into an aficionado of health and wellness and laid the groundwork for an American populous built on wheat bran, good vibes, and step aerobics.  (As the present obesity epidemic might indicate, the trend petered off by the end of the decade.)  Do we have Fonda to thank for the abundance of fitness inspired fashion choices made even by those children of the 80's who had no intention of working out (see below)? 

William Golding's Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies is William Golding's dystopian classic and a high school English throwback.  This novel about a group of British school boys stranded on an undeveloped island in the midst of nuclear war questions the essence of human nature as readers watch the rise and fall of the boys as they attempt to create order despite being wholly disconnected from society.

Literary Travels

50 Books About a Journey

“You forget everything.  The hours slip by.  You travel in your chair through centuries you seem to see before you, your thoughts are caught up in the story, dallying with the details or following the course of the plot, you enter into characters, so it seems as if it were your own heart beneath their costumes.”

- Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Reading is one of life’s simplest escapes.  Travel somewhere new this week with one of Novelry’s fifty recommended books about a journey to a new place.


Murder in Mexico

Did you know that Beat writer William S. Burroughs shot his wife Joan Vollmer in 1951?  One afternoon, while staying in Mexico, Burroughs and Vollmer, both notoriously heavy drinkers and drug users, attended a party with their then 4 year old son.  According to police reports, Burroughs admittedly said "it's time for our William Tell act."  Vollmer then got up and put a glass on her head as Burroughs aimed his .38 caliber pistol.  He shot, missed the glass, then hit her head.  She died instantly.

The Creative Routine

20 Ways to Become More Creatively Productive

Like all creative acts, writing is mysterious.  Sometimes it flows, often it doesn't.  To become a productive writer one must find a way around this challenge, a task easier said than done.  Creatives throughout history have often famously developed bizarre individual tricks to overcome writer's block.  

Early in his career, filmmaker David Lynch relied on obscene amounts of caffeine and sugar to get himself working.  He says,

Book Review

Carthage, the latest novel from Joyce Carole Oates, is just the sort of mental drama she is best known for. Fans will find Carthage a familiarly satisfying read; like many of Oates’ novels, Carthage is literary without being overly complex, philosophical in a way that adds depth yet remains readable, and is written with the eloquence one might expect from a winner of two O.Henry Awards, the National Book Award, and the National Humanities Medal.   

Alice Munro

A Writer Reflects

Below, Alice Munro, Canadian author and winner of the Nobel and Man Booker prizes, reflects on creativity and her writing process in a 1994 interview with Jeanne McCullock and Mona Simpson of The Paris Review.


What to Do Between Episodes of Downton Abbey

Books by The Countess of Carnarvon

Downton Abbey devotees were graced with the much-awaited first episode of season four Sunday evening.  In the days following, many have found themselves confronting a forgotten quandary: how to cope with traditional week-to-week television scheduling.


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