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MichaelNeff

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About MichaelNeff

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    Male
  • Location
    Washington DC
  • Interests
    Novel writing, film, teaching, website production, and trail hiking.

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  1. Alison Bechdel’s new graphic memoir, The Secret to Superhuman Strength, follows the artist through a lifetime of fitness and exercise. These memories and musings are interspersed with transcendentalists, Romantics, Eastern philosophers, and other literary figures who shed light on our obsession with transformation and transcendence. In the excerpt below, Bechdel follows in Jack Kerouac’s footsteps up the Matterhorn, only to find the hike to be far more difficult than expected, and with surprising lessons in store. Alison Bechdel’s cult following for her comic strip Dykes
  2. For those of us obsessed with them, stories about skyjackings offer retro fascination, criminal ingenuity and daring, and, in some cases, wackiness. Skyjackings have been around as long as aviation itself, and continue to this day. But they are most associated with their peak in the 60s-70s, when air travel evoked a sense of glamour (well-coiffed stewardess and Dungeness crab served on china). In this so-called “Golden Age” of skyjackings, global political turmoil produced many cults, revolutionary groups, and malcontents. These are colorful characters, who saw skyjackings as financial or poli
  3. Another week, another batch of books for your TBR pile. Happy reading, folks. * Stacey Abrams, While Justice Sleeps (Doubleday) “While Justice Sleeps is a mesmerizing legal thriller that does the rare thing: It uses the novel to get at the truth. Stacey Abrams is a powerful new voice in fiction.” –Michael Connelly Lara Bazelon, A Good Mother (Hanover Square) “A Good Mother is a high-stakes legal thriller packed with intense courtroom drama, but it’s also a story about the complicated sacrifices and compromises that mothers face. In this impressive debut, Lara Bazelon’s talent for
  4. Ah, the thrilling wives. Sometimes they’re the first, sometimes next, and sometimes they’re last. Often, they know too much. They are charming, hunting, haunted and lovely. Sometimes, they’re found in the twilight, or upstairs. These are the wives of domestic suspense, and no matter who their spouses are, these captivating women are the stars of the show. If you’re looking for your next thrilling read, look no further than The Real Wives of Domestic Suspense. Consider these popular episodes: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing Samantha Downing knocked it out of the park with this particular
  5. Some years ago I was invited to a fancy literary dinner where I was seated between Erica Jong and a senior editor of a mega publishing company. Having just exhausted with Erica the infamous topic of the “zipless f—k,” I turned to the editor and asked, “What do you look for in a manuscript that crosses your desk?” Frankly, I thought he’d give me a yawn and turn back to whomever he had been talking to. But he replied seriously, “I want to be intrigued by the first sentence and gripped by the time I reach the third paragraph. Thereafter, I want it to sing.” No doubt I’d overly participated in t
  6. Tove Jansson, 1954. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. My grandmother will be ninety-six this September. Lately she has taken to expressing herself with an almost childlike wonder, finishing television shows or simple meals or songs on the radio with jaw-dropping admiration, claiming them the best she has seen or eaten or heard in all her days. Thinking about this sometimes apt and more often comical appreciation for life’s otherwise ordinary details puts me in mind of another fanciful grandmother and her adventures around a small Finnish island on the heels of her six-year-old granddaught
  7. The second series of Poets on Couches continues with Sara Deniz Akant reading Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Missing the Boat.” In these videograms, poets read and discuss the poems that are helping them through these strange times—broadcasting straight from their couches to yours. These readings bring intimacy into our spaces of isolation, both through the affinity of poetry and through the warmth of being able to speak to each other across distances. “Missing the Boat” by Naomi Shihab Nye (Issue no. 72, Winter 1977) It is not so much that the boat passed and you failed to notice it. It is
  8. The first time Stephen Mack Jones and I corresponded, it was because of the Newport and Gwent Literary Club, which describes itself as “probably the oldest literary club in Wales.” I’d seen Steve post something on Twitter about the N&GLC and reached out to him. True to form, Steve responded almost immediately, recalling how these “baronesses and knighted U.K. military” had welcomed him into their club soon after his debut novel was released. Looking back on that exchange, I guess I thought it was strange that this sexagenarian crime novelist from Detroit was somehow involved with a liter
  9. I’m standing on a concrete slab in the middle of a deserted park. This is no ordinary slab, though. It’s about fifty feet long, twenty feet wide, and twenty feet high. It’s also covered in moss. Fifty years ago, dirt was piled around the whole thing to try and make it look like a hill, yet even now this mound sports only a few leafless trees despite the lush forest all around. There is a lone wooden picnic table in the exact center, black with mold. If I allow history—and a little imagination—to paint the rest of the picture, then it’s safe to assume that directly below my feet there used to
  10. Mongolia—six times the landmass of the UK, but with just over three million people. Sparsely populated and often with an unforgiving climate—blazing hot summers and severe winters, known as Zuds, that commonly kill livestock and ruin herder families. The country’s capital Ulan Baatar (UB) is home to 1.3 million Mongolians, almost half the entire national population. It’s a city that seen big changes since the country crash-dived into capitalism and democracy following the collapse of its sponsor state, the USSR. Now Mongolia, large in land but small in population, lies ‘between the bear and th
  11. “The riot had taken on a beauty of its own now. Arcs of gasoline fire under the crescent moon. Crimson tracer in mystical parabolas. Phosphorescence from the barrels of plastic bullet guns. A distant yelling like that of men below decks in a torpedoed prison ship. The scarlet whoosh of Molotovs intersecting with exacting surfaces. Helicopters everywhere: their spotlights finding one another like lovers in the Afterlife. And all this through a lens of oleaginous Belfast rain.” Adrian McKinty, The Cold Cold Ground I was reminded of Sean Duffy’s poetic take on the beauty of a Belfast riot re
  12. The Place de la Cathédrale was packed with tourists. They stood shoulder to shoulder, studying the gargoyles as their guides droned on about history, the quality of the stones, and the mastery of the craftsmen. Helena skirted the periphery, stepping around tables and chairs, children with ice cream cones, waiters with trays, and a range of well-behaved dogs. She continued to the south side of the cathedral, past the lineup for the public toilets, past the cathedral’s museum where there was no lineup, and down Rue de Rohan to the quay where the tour boats waited. She bought her ticket for the B
  13. In The Shabbiness of Beauty, published this past month by MACK, the artist and writer Moyra Davey places her work in conversation with that of the photographer Peter Hujar. Before becoming a book, the project appeared as an exhibition at Berlin’s Galerie Buchholz in spring 2020. Thousands of miles away, confined to their New York City apartment, Eileen Myles printed out Davey’s and Hujar’s photographs and mounted their own private rendition of the show. The essay Myles wrote about this experience appears below. Peter Hujar, Paul’s Legs, 1979, from The Shabbiness of Beauty, by Moyra Davey and
  14. Don’t you just want to hate a successful novelist who never took a creative writing class? None. Not one. Not even an English course in college? Well, there was that one class in Shakespeare, if that counts. Yet the world loves Harlan Coben, with more than 30 novels published along with television, movies and multimedia deals under his belt. And for all those writers who have struggled to find an agent or publisher, there’s yet another reason to hate him. Coben never set out to become a novelist. He was a poli sci major who played basketball at Amherst, a liberal arts college in its truest
  15. “Girl Drowned; Escort Missing.” This headline, on the front page of The Syracuse Herald’s July 13, 1906 edition, launched a crime story that still reverberates in popular American culture. The body of Grace Brown, a twenty-year-old factory worker from upstate New York, was recovered from the waters of Big Moose Lake, a fashionable boating spot in the Adirondacks. The cause of death was drowning, but cuts and bruises were found oIn 1908n her face and head, indicating she’d been beaten before falling into the lake. During the post-mortem examination, the county coroner discovered something else:
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