Pull a Single Thread, and the Universe Unravels

When writing, the narrower your focus, the farther you can venture in its pursuit.

In “Authority and American Usage,” David Foster Wallace’s book review of a dictionary deconstructs the complex feedback loop between language and culture. In “watermelons,” Andrea Castillo uses the eponymous fruit to cross disciplines and millennia exploring humanity’s relationship with water. In Levels of the Game, John McPhee describes a single tennis match that implies the entire American experiment.

Any individual feature of the world is an aperture to its entirety. Derive generalities from specifics. Use the particular to reveal the universal.

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Complement with Stories Are Trojan Horses for Ideas, Reassurance, and Loosen the Straps.


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Eliot Peper is the author of nine novels, including Cumulus, Bandwidth, and, most recently, Veil. He sends a monthly newsletter, tweets more than he probably should, and lives in Oakland, CA.

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