elliott holt

My first novel YOU ARE ONE OF THEM was published by The Penguin Press in 2013. My writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Virginia Quarterly Review, Guernica, The Millions, and the 2011 Pushcart Prize anthology. elliottholt.com
  • August 14, 2014 9:47 pm

    When Writing Well Is Part of the Problem


    An Essay by Elliott Holt, on Charles D’Ambrosio

    A little more than six years ago, I had the good fortune to be in a fiction workshop with Charles D’Ambrosio at the Tin House Writers Workshop in Portland, Ore. Charlie’s three books are among my favorites, so I was very excited to be in his…

  • August 3, 2014 2:56 pm

    The Scourge of "Relatability" - The New Yorker


    But to reject any work because we feel that it does not reflect us in a shape that we can easily recognize—because it does not exempt us from the active exercise of imagination or the effortful summoning of empathy—is our own failure. It’s a failure that has been dispiritingly sanctioned by the rise of “relatable.” In creating a new word and embracing its self-involved implications, we have circumscribed our own critical capacities.

  • August 2, 2014 8:46 pm

    Josh Weil in conversation with Elliott Holt

    (Source: youtube.com)

  • July 30, 2014 8:32 am


    'Fail better,' Samuel Beckett commanded, a phrase that has been taken on by business executives as some kind of ersatz wisdom. They have missed the point completely. Beckett didn’t mean failure-on-the-way-to-delayed-success, which is what the FailCon crowd thinks he meant. To fail better, to fail gracefully and with composure, is so essential because there’s no such thing as success. It’s failure all the way down.

    At the center of this web of catastrophes and losses and despairs and mistakes sits a single, obvious culprit: the act of writing itself. In the best work, the intentions of the author fall away, leaving an open field for readers to play in, and they create meanings that may have nothing to do with the author’s. Jonathan Swift famously intended ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ as an indictment of all humanity but ended up leaving a story for children. The joy of language is also a torment. ‘Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to,’ Flaubert wrote, ‘while we long to make music that will melt the stars.’

    When I hear the phrase ‘writing community,’ usually uttered by those without enough talent to hate other writers for theirs, my first instinct is to reach for the napalm. But failure really does bind us. Flaubert longing to melt the stars and the kid receiving her first rejection letter are the same. All of our little streams pour out into the ocean of total uncaring. If there are to be any claims to greatness, they are to be found only in the scope of the failure and persistence in the face of it. That persistence may be the one truly writerly virtue, a salvation indistinguishable from stupidity. To keep going, despite everything. To keep bellying up to the cosmic irrelevance. To keep failing.


    Stephen Marche, “Failure is Our Muse” 

  • July 29, 2014 9:23 pm

    "Honesty is not the same as confession. “Be honest” (often “brutally honest”) is a fundamental tenet of memoir writing. But that does not mean you include every detail, play out every emotional drama, chronicle everything you did during the span of time over which the book or essay takes place. Honesty means not skirting uncomfortable truths and not pulling punches when it comes to recounting situations and feelings. Confession means blurting out a bunch of stuff and just leaving it there for shock value rather than doing the hard work of organizing it and pruning it and deciphering its relevance to the larger picture. Confessing means asking the reader for something — for forgiveness, for punishment, for some kind of response that makes you feel less alone. Honesty means offering something to the reader — a piece of yourself or a set of suggestions. Honesty means making the reader feel less alone. Honesty is inherently generous. Confession is inherently needy and intrusive."

    — Meghan Daum in Salon's “Guide to Writing Memoir” (via thepenguinpress)

  • July 29, 2014 12:13 pm

    I’m excited for LANDSLIDE by Jonathan Darman. Coming in September!

  • July 26, 2014 7:28 pm

    I’m in love with Louis C.K.

    Confession: I would like to lie on his big naked belly and listen to him laugh.

  • July 15, 2014 8:29 pm

    Thank you

    I’m grateful to anyone and everyone who reads my book. If you read it, this is my thank you note to you. Yes, you. 

  • July 15, 2014 8:19 pm

If you are looking for a book to read, I highly recommend this one. Just started it today and I can’t put it down.

THANK YOU! View high resolution


    If you are looking for a book to read, I highly recommend this one. Just started it today and I can’t put it down.


  • July 11, 2014 9:46 am

    YOU ARE ONE OF THEM by Elliott Holt


    I usually hate prologues. To me, it seems like the writer’s undercutting their own authority; like they weren’t confident in their story’s beginning so they slapped on an extra coat of icing. You Are One of Them, Elliott Holt’s debut novel, has a prologue, and despite my long-standing dislike of them, I loved it. It drops you into a cultural and atmospheric icebath—the American Sarah Zuckerman, our lead, during her time in Moscow, in winter, in the 1990s.

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