March 13, 2018

Seven writers on their literary mentors. 

Essays by Tayari Jones, Kevin Brockmeier, Crystal Wilkinson, Tift Merritt, Pia Z. Ehrhardt, Bronwen Dickey, and Jamey Hatley.

March 13, 2018

Notes on the manuscript containing James Dickey’s essay “The Kingdom of the Other.”

Dickey was terrified of living an unexamined life, and he employed this technique, the imagining of the Other—the beings and places which were remote from his own biographical self—as a necessity to fuel creation, both in his writing and personal life.

March 13, 2018

An Omnivore essay by James Dickey, previously unpublished, from the 100th issue.

The point I would make here is that so much of the mind is just chucked away, discounted, overlooked, junked. The real use of the imagination begins precisely with the recognition that this is happening: the recognition that all one’s inner life matters, from the most habitual modes of thought to the most secret, and the recognition that each of us carries within him his own symbolic drama, never completely understood, but always glowing with the potential of meaning, the meaning of life itself, of our life, of human life as we have known it, each from his own vantage point.

March 13, 2018

An introduction to a previously unpublished James Dickey essay, from the 100th issue. 

In “The Kingdom of the Other,” an essay adapted from a manuscript titled “Under the Social Surface,” written in the 1950s, Dickey says that our written words, meaning our take on everything from abstractions to the glint of a new pocketknife’s blade, are formed from our memories, those shape-shifting resources that turn into people and forests, train stations and the ruminations of characters. (I was very young—twenty-one—when I took Dickey’s class, and I needed to hear that something inside me could be fascinating to a reader.)

March 13, 2018

An installment in Chris Offutt’s Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris. 

According to the exuberant advertising, my Echo was in full possession of sixty thousand recipes, which is why it’s worth writing about in a “food essay.” I have a very large collection of community cookbooks—three shelves’ worth, totaling seventy-five inches. My wife has another forty cookbooks, all much taller and thicker than mine. Still, we didn’t have sixty thousand recipes between us. Then again, who the Sam Hill needs that many?

March 13, 2018

An Omnivore essay from the 100th issue. 

In the coming skirmishes over the legitimacy of color photography, the image would take on a great symbolic significance. This minor, inexplicable moment—in which a photographer had pondered a light bulb in the Mississippi Delta—would come to be understood as a shot across the bow of art-world atrophy.

March 13, 2018

A Writing on Writing essay from the 100th issue.

I keep a photograph on my desk that I printed from the internet. It is a candid snapshot, taken at the end of a gathering of black women. It must be fall because most of them are wearing coats. It looks as if someone insisted at the last minute that they take a photo to capture the evening. In the background, a portrait of Bessie Smith, the blues singer, hangs on the wall. 

March 13, 2018

A Writing on Writing essay from the 100th issue.

So, I kind of fell backward into writing, not because it came “naturally” or because I wanted to join the family business (in his novel Money, Martin Amis, the son of Kingsley Amis, famously joked, “Oh, sure. It’s just like taking over the family pub”), but because curiosity drove everything I did, and eventually that curiosity won out.

March 13, 2018

A Writing on Writing essay from the 100th issue.

To ease the terror of having your work picked over by him and your fellow writers, Rick ran workshop like the Grand Guignol. Jokes leavened the sting; his over-the-top performance and rhetoric made the criticism entertaining, bracing. He gave us a set of dictums he adhered to in his own work. Twenty years later, they’re available online as “The 39 Steps,” but back then, these don’ts and dos rolled off his tongue. 

March 13, 2018

A Writing on Writing essay from the 100th issue.

Heroes are no trite matter—people worth looking up to are important at any age. Adult influences wield less power; we come to them more fully formed, with harder edges and less need. Those first heroes are mentors, confidants, complete relationships in their one-sided way. Not unlike first loves, they hold that most delicate of heartstrings: hope. Hope for the future, for what love is capable of, what words are capable of, what we ourselves are capable of. My first hero is, always, Eudora Welty.

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