When I'm in the Mood for Fiction

It’s been awhile since I finished a novel and the dry spell has had me thinking about the moods that call out for reading fiction. I write about these in an essay appearing this morning at The Millions:

The more I’m engaged with life—and particularly with other people—the more I want to read fiction. At the peak of a wedding reception or in the throes of a night out when the crowd has given itself over to celebration, I often want to sneak off and read a novel. It’s a contradictory impulse, to want to retreat into a book at the precise moment I am most enthralled with life, but such are the circumstances we live by. What I’m after, I think, is a kind of synergy that can only happen when I approach a novel while my body is still charged with the feeling of being present and alive.

Never Let You Go: Friendship in the Facebook Age

New essay up this morning at The Millions. It’s called “Never Let You Go: Friendship in the Facebook Age” and it expresses some reservations about the thin way that friendships that would have been over completely even a decade ago live on through social networks:

On a gut level, I couldn’t figure out what to make of this. Was I supposed to feel happy to hear from long lost Jake? Was I supposed to write back “thanks” as though it were completely natural to be wished a happy birthday by a person whose existence is barely more real to me than a character’s in a novel? There seemed to be no categories or schema in the evolutionarily designed layout of my brain to process an encounter that bore qualities in common with a person coming back from the dead.