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MichaelNeff

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About MichaelNeff

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    Washington DC
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    Novel writing, film, teaching, website production, and trail hiking.

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  1. © Vyacheslav Argenberg, Beirut, Lebanon, 2008, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. We walked over to the olive trees, he and I. There were three of them, and some little holm oaks. On the horizon, to the east and the south, you could see mountain ridges, and in the two other directions it was so wide that you couldn’t make out the boundary of the plot. The fellow had offered me another one, with a sea view, and I had replied that I didn’t care. I can look at the sea often enough, every day at home, and if I’m going to be in the mountains I might as well gaze up at the peaks and the canopy of sk
  2. The thief of perfume is, in fact, one of the most active of the twenty-first century. In the UK, cosmetics/perfume was the fourth most-shoplifted category in 2019 (after packed meat, razor blades, and whisky/champagne/gin). In the US, perfume is first on the list of products pinched by women, and an AdWeek list of the ten most shoplifted items ranks Chanel No. 5 at No. 9 (a few notches down from Axe body spray). Just ask Mrs. Thyra G. Youngstrom. In a 1959 news article, she’s reported as having discovered her West Hartford, Connecticut, home had been ransacked. It seemed everything was out of
  3. Carol and Charlie were my upstairs neighbors. They were an older couple, sliver-haired and retired, always around on weekdays. I registered them as vaguely eccentric but sweet, complete opposites from one another. Carol was gregarious. She was always smiling, always generous, delivering packages from the lobby to our apartment doors and feeding a feral cat on our block. I met her as I was moving into my now-husband’s place. She seemed delighted to have me in the building, peppering me with personal questions like some cheerfully nosy aunt, welcoming me to the family. Charlie was quieter, inco
  4. la valle d’abisso dolorosa . . . the valley of the sad abyss . . . —Dante, Inferno You find comparatively few murderers among WASPs. Harry Kendall Thaw (the Pittsburgh coal heir who shot Stanford White, the beaux arts architect, on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden in 1906), Jean Harris (the Smith College alumna and Madeira School headmistress who murdered the diet guru Dr. Herman Tarnower in 1980), and William Bradford Bishop (the Yale-educated diplomat who bludgeoned his family to death with a sledgehammer in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1976) very nearly exhaust the list of WASPs who killed
  5. I got married in 2012. I remember sitting on the plane en route to our honeymoon staring at my brand new wedding band and thinking: I am somebody’s wife now. A small thrill passed through me at the idea of belonging to someone in this way. Ever since, I have always enjoyed introducing myself to my husband’s coworkers or high school classmates as “Rob Baker’s wife.” Hey, he’s a great guy to be married to! But also, let me be perfectly clear, as much as I love him, ‘til death do us part and whatnot, that sobriquet better not be the thing engraved on my tombstone. And furthermore, if someday I be
  6. __________________________________ “The Text Message” by Luc Brahy is excerpted from FIRST DEGREE: A CRIME ANTHOLOGY. Used with the permission of the publisher, Humanoids. Copyright © 2021 by Luc Brahy. View the full article
  7. Photo: Nina Subin. I first encountered Alexandra Kleeman’s work in the pages of this magazine. Her story “Fairy Tale”—published in 2010, when Kleeman was still a student in the M.F.A. program at Columbia University—is a nightmarish account of a woman confronted by a barrage of strangers who all claim to be her fiancé. The one she is forced to choose tries to kill her. Kleeman’s novel You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine employs a similarly arch and sinister surrealism to tell the story of two roommates whose identities slowly melt into one. In her latest novel, Something New under the Sun, the
  8. Last year, I took part in a London festival’s panel discussion of the work of Agatha Christie. On the panel with me were four other writers, all passionate Agatha fans. One by one, we described what we loved about her work and talked about how much she meant to us. Then it was time for the Q&A, and the questions we were asked by the audience were, by and large, the same ones I’ve been answering on Agatha-themed panels since around 2011: why is she still the no. 1 bestselling novelist of all time? Is her work dated now or is she still relevant? Even though she’s widely and rightfully regard
  9. August brings an almost overwhelming bounty of great crime novels, both from promising newcomers and established voices alike. The variety of subject matter is almost as astonishing as the vast number of releases, and below, you’ll find such disparate settings as a ballet school, an apartment in lockdown, 1970s Mexico, and 1940s Chicago and Paris, just to mention some. Whether your tastes are traditional or twisted, you’ll be sure to be pleased with August’s selections. Stay tuned for more recommendations. Megan Abbott, The Turnout (Putnam) Megan Abbott has already written about the high-
  10. In the area surrounding the Green Banks Observatory in West Virginia, devices emanating radio frequencies are banned. The region has come to be known as The Quiet Zone, due to the absence of cellular service, wifi, and other modern technology. Thousands live in The Quiet Zone. The following is excerpted from Stephen Kurczy’s new book, The Quiet Zone, an exploration of the area and its residents. ___________________________________ Still in his pajamas, Bob Sheets turned on his kitchen griddle and whisked up a bowl of blueberry pancake batter. I had come to debrief. The Sheetses were becoming
  11. I didn’t always love surfing. Or surf culture. Or surf books for that matter. I never really thought that much about any of it. But today, my love for the genre of surf noir borders on obsession. I’m always looking to discover new books in the surf or beach noir genre. Or even just good books on surfing. The only problem is there isn’t a ton out there. There are some staples, sure, and there are a few new ones here and there. And there are some oldies that people might forget about. But the simple truth is, I could use a lot more. We can all use a lot more. My interest in surf noir started
  12. Every week, the editors of The Paris Review lift the paywall on a selection of interviews, stories, poems, and more from the magazine’s archive. You can have these unlocked pieces delivered straight to your inbox every Sunday by signing up for the Redux newsletter. The author at his jazz club, Peter Cat, in 1978. This week at The Paris Review, we’re tuning in to the Olympics and thinking about feats of athleticism. Read on for Haruki Murakami’s Art of Fiction interview, Ottessa Moshfegh’s short story “The Weirdos,” Gary Gildner’s poem “The Runner,” and Leanne Shapton and Charlotte Strick’s a
  13. A new essay anthology, The Contemporary American Essay, collects works by forty-seven American writers that exemplify the diverse styles and subject matters explored within the form throughout the past twenty-five years. In the excerpted introduction below, the editor and writer Phillip Lopate considers the boom of literary nonfiction amid times of uncertainty. Henriette Browne, A Girl Writing; The Pet Goldfinch, ca. 1874, oil on canvas, 22 x 36 1/4’’. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. The first quarter of the twenty-first century has been an uneasy time of rupture and anxiety, filled w
  14. He opens the tray table and sets his water bottle down, then opens a packet of chocolates and pops one in his mouth. The train leaves Ueno and returns to the world above. A few clouds float in the sky, but mostly it’s just clear blue. The sky’s as sunny as I am, he thinks. He sees a driving range, with its backstop like a giant green mosquito net. It f lows off to the left and a school slides into view, a string of concrete rectangles, uniformed students hanging around the windows. He can’t tell if they’re his age or a little older, and Satoshi ‘The Prince’ Oji spends a moment trying to figure
  15. Every writer has a bag of tricks to conjure the muse or to, as David Lynch puts it, “catch the big fish.” For some, it’s a simple ritual, such as “morning pages” or imposing a daily word count. For others, it may be a complicated mélange of caffeine, nicotine, booming opera music and a rigorous pass through the day’s tabloid reportage. Carson McCullers purportedly required a beer to start the writing day, then moved onto a sherry-tea concoction before turning to bourbon as her closer. I know at least one writer who has a standing desk/treadmill situation so he can constantly be moving as he wr
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