Essays

July 25, 2014

Italo Calvino’s Science Fiction Masterpiece 4

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Cosmicomics is that rarity among progressive texts: its premises are absurd and almost incoherent, yet the plot lines are filled with romance, drama, and conflicts that draw the readers deeper and deeper into the text.

July 24, 2014

New Edition, Old Problems: On Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises 11

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My first response to the new edition was to wonder whether it was an attempt to steer readers away from the unsavory aspects of the novel, a trigger warning-age sanding down of edges.

July 17, 2014

A Vanished World of Readers: On Joanna Rakoff’s My Salinger Year 0

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A less-heralded casualty of the digital age is the disintegration of the lower rungs of the ladder that have long led young, smart readers into the caste of professional tastemakers.

July 15, 2014

A Degree in Books 8

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This is what college should be like — all shade, dusty books, and lofty conversation.

July 14, 2014

Edan Lepucki and Bill Morris on the Road to Publication 6

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“Four titles, four agents, at least a dozen drafts, and more rejections than I care to count…”

July 8, 2014

The Art of the Opening Sentence 21

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Opening sentences are not to be written lightly.

June 30, 2014

Mystery and Manners: On Teaching Flannery O’Connor 5

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The sheer originality of Flannery O’Connor’s stories shows students how amplifying their surrounding world can make great fiction. Now, 50 years after her death, when she is a staple of syllabi and the very canon that previously excluded her and other women, it is most important to stress fresh approaches to her work within the classroom.

June 26, 2014

Are You My Mother? On Maternal Abandonment in Literature 6

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Literature is full of disappearing mothers.

June 24, 2014

Lives in Letters 6

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While my father is a young 81—another man’s 61, according to everyone who meets him—the fact that there’s an “8” in the age recorded in so many of the obituaries he sends is still a fact. When did this happen? I think. I think: So he’s preparing me.

June 23, 2014

A Prologue to the Literary History of the First World War: War Poets at the Ballet 3

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Did Marsh, Thornycroft, Sitwell, Sassoon, and the Thomases all come together for an evening at the ballet—and am I the first to notice?