About a third of the way through [Rupert Thomson’s This Party’s Got to Stop], I had to take a break. The essay I’m writing had stalled. My verbs seemed unconscionably obvious next to his, my sentences clumsy, my narrative voice about as natural as a conversation heard through a tin horn. I was, as always, struggling with structure. … Of course this isn’t the first time I’ve been so overwhelmed with admiration for someone else’s work that I could barely stand to look at my own. … For occasions like this, for the past couple years, I’ve kept on hand a well-reviewed novel that I don’t like or respect. It’s sitting on my desk right now, in fact. I don’t re-read it in any detail, because I don’t want it to contaminate my thinking, but flicking through the book makes me feel better about my own work, however imperfect it may be.