Doug McLean

How Literature Inspires Empathy

The Egyptian writer and activist Alaa Al Aswany explains how one word in Dostoyevsky’s novel The House of the Dead showed him how literature can help us understand one another.

Doug McLean

The Joy of the Memorized Poem

A panicked moment reciting William Butler Yeats in an MRI convinced the former poet laureate Billy Collins that oration is poetry's last, most enlightened defense.

Doug McLean

Write Like the Handmaid

Novelist Edan Lepucki looks to the subversive metaphors in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale for lessons in channeling characters' weird, rebellious spirits.

Envision the Novel Like a Museum

Using the guard-turned-vandal in The Heart So White as his guide, author Ben Lerner writes books in which characters interact with art, and occasionally try to set it on fire.

Doug McLean

Writers Can Do Anything

William T. Vollmann, author of Last Stories and Other Stories, explains why he works by an assassin's credo: "Nothing is true; all is permissible."

Doug McLean

How Creativity Could Save Humanity

Stefan Zweig, the obscure Austrian writer whose life and work inspired The Grand Budapest Hotel, believed imagination could help propel society toward universal tolerance and accord.

Doug McLean

Why You Never Truly Finish a Book

Thirty Girls author Susan Minot says great writing—like T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"—is a source of nourishment readers turn to again and again.