Author Archives: Mike

DFW, PTA, FA and Emerson College

The story about Paul Thomas Anderson having a conversation with David Foster Wallace is making the rounds of the nerdiest parts of the internet today. The story, which was told on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, is a neat little anecdote that doesn’t add much to what we know about either artist. DFW was a nice teacher. PTA adds a little more to his literary cred, even on top of adapting Pynchon’s Inherent Vice last year. However, we the editors of Fiction Advocate found one detail to be exceptionally important: the whole thing happened at Emerson College in Boston, and we are all graduates of Emerson College in Boston.

PTA, feel free to call us anytime.

-Michael Moats

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The Top Ten Books [I had Time to Read] This Year


Foreground: Baby. Background: Books.

I became a parent in the Spring of 2014. Which is a wonderful thing, but it means that I spent my severely reduced reading time with books like The Happiest Baby on the Block Guide to Great Sleep (useful, but a pretty excruciating read); Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads (useful, and an enjoyable read); and The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree (still a classic).

I  did manage to pull off one half-assed review about a book I hadn’t finished reading, but for the most part my 2014 was spent dreaming of all the cool looking books I had no time to enjoy. Needless to say, this has left me woefully underqualified to make any kinds of judgments, even subjective ones, about the Best Books of the last 12 months.

And yet, I remain undeterred — what is the end of a year without a list of things? And while I may not have a top 10, I’m sure I can come up with something that fits our habit of  doing odd and unorthodox year-end lists.

So here is my list of Top Ten Books [I had Time to Read] This YearContinue reading


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What to Read: Not the New York Times Ten Best Books of 2014

Looking for something to read over the holidays? Hey, the New York Times 10 Best Books is a great place to look!

Pour yourself a nice mug of hot cocoa and get cozy to read about everything from, oh…uh, a collapsing marriage (Dept. of Speculation, Jeny Offill) or a family’s disintegration after a horrible tragedy involving a child (Family Life, Akhil Sharma), or a story collection about the devastating impacts of the Iraq War (Redeployment, Phil Klay).

Hmmm. Okay, well how about the one about the blind girl and the Nazi (All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr)? Or, uh, maybe the one about a female novelist who didn’t publish anything until she was almost 60 (Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life, Hermione Lee)? Okay, okay — here’s a “spellbinding blend of memoir, science journalism and literary criticism” about….oh….vaccination (On Immunity: An Inoculation, Eula Biss). Probably don’t want to bring that up at dinner. Same goes for the one about Israel and peace in the Middle East (Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David, Lawrence Wright).

What about the one titled Euphoria? That sounds nice. Oh, looks like it’s about another marriage breaking up. Alright.

I guess it could be worse. We could be among the irreplaceable habitats and species whose destruction has been chillingly documented by Elizabeth Kolbert in The Sixth Extinction. Jeez. What else is there? Oh, perfect, Roz Chast’s graphic novel about her parents’ decline into infirmity and old age: Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

I wish.

-Michael Moats

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#GreatReviewsMatter: Your Daily Lack of Perspective


There is so much injustice in the world. And maybe you’ve been too preoccupied with cops getting away with killing citizens or women being fired because they’re pregnant to realize that the Worst. Thing. Ever. just happened to novelist Ayelet Waldman. After getting a really great review in The New York Times for her book Love & Treasure, Waldman was then viciously and heartlessly snubbed by not being included in the Times 100 Notable Books of 2014.

Feel her pain:

Yes, journal writing seems like something she would excel at.

As you can tell by trying to click the links in the tweets above, Waldman has since deleted these and other tweets railing against her horrible treatment (our fuzzy top image is a mere screen-grab from this page, where you can read the full rant). So I guess we won’t be seeing a #GreatReviewsMatter hashtag.

As her tantrum subsided, she did acknowledge that “There are real problems in the world. I’m just going to suck it up and do something good for someone else.” At which point she heroically offered to donate a dollar to charity for every pre-order someone makes of her book.

I was going to pre-order it myself, but I heard it wasn’t very notable.

-Michael Moats

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Authors Note

If you haven’t already dropped all your cash on a Black Friday or CyberMonday gift, today is your chance to really spend some money, and ostensibly support a good cause.  Christie’s — the auction house where bidding typically starts about where your student loans are right now — is teaming up with the PEN American Center for “First Edition/Second Thoughts,” a charity auction of first editions that have been recently re-read and annotated by their authors.

Junot Diaz, Robert Caro, Marilynne Robinson, Philip Roth, Lydia Davis and 70 other authors and artists have looked back at their old works and added hand-written comments in the margins and elsewhere. Don DeLillo’s contribution, a 1997 edition of Underworld, features “four hundred pages of DeLillo’s handwritten notes, providing anecdotes, playful commentary, and his recollections of writing the book,” according to the New Yorker. “I found it interesting to become curious about something that I myself had written,” said DeLillo to the magazine, which also noted that the author communicates via fax.

The concept really is a cool one, and is among the few instances in which getting a “signed first edition” actually adds something to your reading. Here’s hoping there will be an opportunity in the future to read the annotations without having to bid the kind of money that would give any reasonable person, well, second thoughts*.


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Now Playing: Inherent Vice Trailer

The trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice is here. Been looking forward to this one for a long time.

Inherent Vice was “the Pynchon book I was the least interested in reading, and the one I flat out enjoyed the most.” It also strikes me as the most film-adaptable of his novels, especially at the hands of Anderson, who also did There Will Be BloodMagnoliaBoogie Nights, and one of my personal favorites, Punch Drunk Love.

You can read more about his love of Pynchon and work on Inherent Vice in a recent New York Times story.

-Michael Moats


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TL;DR Must Read


FA review tag

It was something of a surprise when Thomas Piketty’s 700-page, statistics-laden economics tome Capital in the Twenty-First Century became a sensation earlier this year, selling out its early print run and even briefly passing Heaven is for Real for the top spot on the New York Times Bestseller list. Less surprising was the news last week that the 700-page, statistic-laden economics tome now tops a list of books people are buying and then not reading.

According to an admittedly non-scientific study tracking the most frequently highlighted passages in popular e-books, most buyers of Piketty’s book didn’t highlight, and thus probably didn’t read, much of anything beyond page 26. It is “summer’s most unread book” for 2014.

So let me confess at the outset of this review that I am one of the many who have not finished reading this book.

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-Michael Moats

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