There are novels you read to find out what happens next, and novels you read to linger in the moment. Tom Drury's new book, Pacific, falls squarely in the second category. Drury started writing about the inhabitants of fictional Grouse County in 1994, in The End of Vandalism, and continued with 2000's Hunts in Dreams. But to call Pacific a sequel implies that you need to read the first two installments to fully invest in this slight, beguiling third. You don't.
A year ago, writer Neil Gaiman told the graduating class at Philadelphia's University of the Arts that life is sometimes hard — that things will go wrong in love and business and friendship and health, and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And that the best thing an artist can do at those times is to "make good art."
That commencement speech became a hit on the Web and has now been adapted into a small book, titled, appropriately, Make Good Art.
Pop culture does not mean celebrity culture; I have perhaps said this more often than anyone you're going to meet. Who dates, who gets a divorce, who has a tantrum, who has surreptitious photos snapped of him by mangy, grim opportunists — these things are not culture of any kind, popular or otherwise, unless there is something else at stake. They are curiosities, and given that we are curious creatures, their pull is not surprising, nor is it new, nor was it invented by the internet, or television, or Americans.