Dancing with my Characters
Dancing with my Characters

https://mgcobb.com/2020/12/22/dancing-with-my-characters/ My wife and I are huge fans of CBS Sunday Morning. It’s been our weekly morning ritual for years. I love the variety of stories, ranging from human interest to current events — a refreshing alternative to the barrage of political news invading from all fronts. My love of the show goes all the way back to the days of Charles Kuralt (I know that dates me). The Sunday before Christmas 2020, a segment aired about Etsy in the time of COVID. One of the artisans featured is a guy named Matthew Cummings, a Knoxville-based glassblowing artist and beer…

Mrs. Dalloway and Head-Hopping
Mrs. Dalloway and Head-Hopping

https://mgcobb.com/2021/01/02/mrs-dalloway-and-head-hopping/ Michael Cunningham is an American novelist and screenwriter best known for his 1998 Pulitzer prize-winning novel The Hours. The December 23, 2020 issue of The New York Times ran a wonderful essay by Cunningham, Virginia Woolf’s Literary Revolution, about Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway. Given my thirty-year fascination with, and devotion to, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group in general, I was eager to read Cunningham’s piece. He didn’t let me down. I could go on and on about the many reasons I love Virginia Woolf’s body of work, and I highly recommend Cunningham’s piece. However, I would like…

I Write in Service to my Characters
I Write in Service to my Characters

https://mgcobb.com/2020/12/20/i-write-in-service-to-my-characters/ “Never allow the integrity of your own way of seeing things and saying things to be swamped by the influence of a master, however great.” George P. Lathrop George Parsons Lathrop. Ever heard of him? Probably not. Most people haven’t. But everybody’s heard of his father-in law. In fact, countless high school and college students in this country still read the man’s writing every year, and have so for over a century. You see, in 1871, at the age of twenty, George Lathrop married a woman three months his senior named Rose Hawthorne, the youngest child of Nathaniel. Yes…

Nabokov and the Task of Writing
Nabokov and the Task of Writing

https://mgcobb.com/2020/12/16/nabokov-and-the-task-of-writing/ Okay. I admit it. The abiding controversy surrounding Lolita notwithstanding, I’m a huge fan of Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov. Of his considerable body of work, perhaps my favorite novel is Pale Fire. The story centers on John Shade, a reclusive poet who writes a 999-line poem about his life and speculation of what will befall him when he ultimately leaves this earth. The novel includes extensive commentary by his crazy neighbor, Charles Kinbote, who encourages him to write about his, Kinbote’s, own homeland, the kingdom of Zembla. Lest I give away too much of the story, I’ll refrain from…

Wabi-Sabi and the Craft of Writing
Wabi-Sabi and the Craft of Writing

https://mgcobb.com/2020/12/16/wabi-sabi-and-the-craft-of-writing/ I don’t begin a piece, whether a short story or a novel, with some lofty notion of an ideal plotline that takes the reader through an exposition, a crescendo and a climax, a resolution and a denouement. Some authors write this way, and I respect them for it. My approach is a little different, inspired by the ancient Japanese principle of wabi-sabi, which celebrates the beauty of imperfection. My characters, with all their flaws and imperfections, their tics and eccentricities, their peccadillos and peculiarities — they are the agents who tell me what to write, in what direction the…

Herald
Herald

COMING IN 2021 https://mgcobb.com/2020/12/14/herald/ Susan Herald moved to Atlanta to make a new life for herself, one far away from the privilege and upper-middle-class comfort she left behind. But her plans for a new start were not meant to be. Early one fall morning in 1970, her nude, bullet-riddled body was discovered on a construction site in a run-down part of town, her life cut short senselessly and inexplicably. This is a true story. It is the account of the life and death of Susan Herald, fictionalized as “Kathleen” in a recent short piece (Kathleen). At the time I wrote…

https://mgcobb.com/2021/02/18/how-to-create-compelling-characters/

How to create compelling characters
How to create compelling characters

It’s not only writer’s intuition. Use personality psychology to create just the right blend of surprise and believability by Kira-Anne Pelican Need to know It’s first thing in the morning, I’ve plenty to do but I can’t stop thinking about Nicole Kidman’s character from the American TV series I watched last night, The Undoing. It’s a psychological thriller, and Kidman was mesmerising. When written well, characters seize our attention and compel us to engage. They stay in our minds long after we’ve closed the pages of our novel, binge-watched the entire box set, or exited the auditorium. We mull…

https://mgcobb.com/2021/02/08/mass-energy-and-how-literature-transforms-the-dead-weight-of-being-jeanette-winterson-on-why-we-read/

Mass, Energy, and How Literature Transforms the Dead Weight of Being: Jeanette Winterson on Why We Read
Mass, Energy, and How Literature Transforms the Dead Weight of Being: Jeanette Winterson on Why We Read

“Books read us back to ourselves… The escape into another story reminds us that we too are another story. Not caught, not confined, not predestined.” “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us,” Kafka wrote to his childhood friend just as he was setting out on a life of making and honing axes of words. I have always been struck by his metaphor — by both the exquisite truth of its tenor and the awful violence of its vehicle. A good book is indeed a profound transformation and, yes, there can be a violence to…

https://mgcobb.com/2021/02/05/what-we-get-wrong-about-joan-didion/

What We Get Wrong About Joan Didion
What We Get Wrong About Joan Didion

In the spring of 1967, Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, freelance writers married to each other and living in Los Angeles, were engaged to write a regular column for the Saturday Evening Post. This was a good gig. The space they had to fill was neither long nor short — about twelve hundred words, a gallop larger than the Comment that opens this magazine. The Post paid them well, and Didion and Dunne each had to file one piece a month. The column, called “Points West,” entailed their visiting a place of West Coast interest, interviewing a few…

https://mgcobb.com/2021/01/29/the-high-stakes-world-of-pirate-publishing/

The high-stakes world of pirate publishing
The high-stakes world of pirate publishing

An interesting piece on pirate publishing by Andrew Pettegree, Professor of Modern History at the University of St. Andrews.

It is now 55 years since Robert Darnton first became aware of the vast archive of the Société typographique de Neuchâtel (STN), one of the principal suppliers of books to the French market in the late 18th century. It is fair to say that this happy combination of remarkable source material and Darnton’s analytical skill has transformed book history. Darnton’s first major engagement with this literature, The Literary Underground of the Old Regime (1982) was followed in 1996 by The…

Mike Cobb

I write because that is fundamentally who I am. My body of work includes both non-fiction and fiction. Both short form and long form.

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