Essays Archives - The Millions

July 27, 2016

Literary Beatdowns: or, Excerpts from Smollett’s ‘Critical Review’ 1

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This was a hard-nosed, hard-knuckled era — in life, in literature, and especially in literary criticism.

July 27, 2016

The Writer is Not Here: On Nihilism and the Writing Life 2

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Just as writing may induce multifarious forms of anxiety, the right words are also a middle finger to the dying of the light.

July 26, 2016

50 Reasons Why You Should Read Joy Williams 0

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I have read it twice now and taken photographs of single pages and recited them as prayers, because prayers should be strange, and they should often sting.

July 26, 2016

The Perils of Writing Wilderness: On Dave Eggers’s ‘Heroes of the Frontier’ 3

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Dave Eggers’s Alaska loses something essential to itself.

July 21, 2016

Is It Really So Wrong to Kill a Mockingbird? 4

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The mockingbird has long served as a rallying point for a very specific vision of American communal identity — one intertwined with the romantic glories of the Old South. Its associations with the nightingale allow the mockingbird to suggest a vision of the South as a lost idyll, the mythic location of a golden age we can no longer inhabit.

July 20, 2016

Exquisite Masochism: On Sex and the Novel 0

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Scenes of “exquisite masochism” feature powerful women and submissive men, often take place in highly aestheticized environments, and work as vehicles for the respectable novel’s sexual content.

July 18, 2016

Incest and Spouse Swapping: On Iris Murdoch’s ‘A Severed Head’ 3

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This delirious little novel is a dirtier, more bizarre study of the messiness of human desire, complete with incest and spouse swapping, and it’s arguably the better book.

July 18, 2016

White Lives Matter: On Nancy Isenberg’s ‘White Trash’ 3

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Isenberg appears to have decided to write a history of poor white America and then persuaded herself that poor black America was only tangential to her story.

July 15, 2016

Group Therapy: Was It Really a Game? 0

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Group Therapy represented a time when my family was still together, played games together. When we opened up. Got in touch. Let go. Were free. I find myself replacing things from my childhood, item by item, in the hope the child returns.

July 14, 2016

Sweet Bitterness: Why We Need More Novels About Work 10

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It’s the one novel I’ve read this year that takes work seriously, that balances decadence with an honest day’s work.