Sunday, August 28, 2005

For those in need of a good read

I have four bookcases, one with only three shelves, another with six, two with four. Even when I wasn’t writing very much, back in the mid-90s, I had books towering up around me, a pile of magazines here, some newspapers over there. It is the one thing I know I can’t bring with me to Ukraine – four-hundred and fifty pounds of books, to say nothing of the shelf of records. So I’ve been hoarding. My father lent me his Adobe Acrobat program, and I’ve been downloading stories and articles from the Internet and squirreling them away on my hard-drive. I’ve got tons of pdfs now, an even split, I’d say, between non-fiction and fiction.

  Zoetrope has the best fiction archive online, and if you're looking for a recent New Yorker story (last two or three years) you just need to know the date of the magazine it was in to pull it up online. Here's a George Saunders story. You'll see the date in its web address.

My best find in recent days was Malcolm Gladwell’s website. If you don’t know Gladwell, you’ve probably read him. He’s a staff writer at the New Yorker, a job that demands he write between 40,000 and 50,000 words a year for the magazine, all of his choosing. In the course of this work, Gladwell's come out with two books, Blink, most recently, and The Tipping Point, which is a wonderful investigation of social epidemics, a few years back. Anyways, through Gladwell’s website, which has a comprehensive archive of his New Yorker articles, I found links to Ann Applebaum, whose Gulag won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction, and Michael Specter, a frequent contributor to the New Yorker who also writes extensively for the New York Times Magazine. Specter wrote a great deal about Russia in the 1990s; those articles were mostly written for the Times. Also, his New Yorker articles are available as pdf files, so they're easy to save for another day. As for Applebaum, she continues to focus her writing on the legacy of Communism.

If that doesn’t satisfy your fix for downloadable reading, you can also find material at the website of Susan Orlean, whose Orchid Thief inspired the movie Adaptation.