Empty Page

JSF asks famous authors for an empty page. They respond.

Richard Powers was the first to respond. "The favor is indeed strange," he wrote, "but wonderful. The more I think about it, the more resonance it gets: a museum of pure potential, the unfilled page!" He sent along the next sheet from the yellow legal pad on which he writes. When I held it to my face, I could see the indentations from the writing on the page that was once above it. Within a week the indentations had disappeared – the ghost words were gone – and the page was again perfectly flat.

I received a piece of paper from Susan Sontag. It was slightly smaller than the standard 8 1/2" x 11", and her name was printed across the top – for archival purposes, I imagined. John Barth sent me an empty page. It was classic three-hole style with the red strip up the margin. (How strange, I thought, that America’s most famous metafictionist should compose on the most traditional, childlike paper.) His note: "Yours takes the prize for odd requests and quite intrigues me."

A sheet of empty graph paper came from Paul Auster, which evoked his style. An absolutely gorgeous mathematician’s log from Helen DeWitt, accompanied by advice to the young writer about getting to know one’s typesetter. A page ripped from David Grossman’s notebook – small, worn even in its newness, somehow strong. He sent along a beautiful letter filled with observations, opinions, regrets, hopes and no mention of blank paper. A clean white page from Arthur Miller, no accompanying note. Paper from Zadie Smith, Victor Pelevin, David Foster Wallace ("You are a weird bird JSF"), Peter Carey, John Updike. . .

I find this at Der Tagesspiegel. Has this been previously printed elsewhere?

Recent Posts

Criticism Isn't Free

CR is dedicated to thoughtful, in-depth criticism without regard to what's commercially appealing. It takes tens of hours each month to provide this. Please help make this sort of writing sustainable, either with a subscription or a one-time donation. Thank you!

You could also purchase one of my acclaimed ebooks.

1 Comment

Got Something To Say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Is your final question a trick, a ploy to ferret out those who still look at nudies? I will not be taken in!


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

Shop though these links = Support this site

Copyright © 2018. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.