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Don DeLillo
Critic's Notebook: Essays tiptoe up to grab us unawares
Critic's Notebook: Essays tiptoe up to grab us unawares

Essays sneak up on us. They are — or often feel — accidental: the record of a writer wrestling with an idea, an observation, a slice of experience, of a writer figuring it out. They have a conditional quality, as if they could go in any direction, offering impressions more than conclusive points of view. As Tom Bissell notes at the beginning of "Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation": "When I am asked ... for advice on how to get started as a nonfiction writer, I tell them to start small and look around." There it is, the idea exactly: Keep your eyes open and follow where the language leads. In "Magic Hours" (Believer Books: 304 pp., $14),...

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