Essays

February 5, 2016

No You or Me: On Love, Death, and the Kindle 4

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There is nothing I want less than to read from a tablet — the thought of doing so irritates me irrationally — and I’ve begun to wonder if my attachment to the physical book has anything to do with an attachment to my father, or at least my memory of him.

February 3, 2016

Reality Turned to Cliché: On ‘Trump: The Novel’ 2

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The premise is just too broad — crude and adolescent. The details with which she draws her character — the hair, the wife, the tan — feel overblown and cartoonish. There’s no room for subtlety or irony.

February 2, 2016

A Long Winter of Oblivion: On the Forgotten Genius of Irish Literature 4

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Irish playwright Seán O’Casey called him “the jesting poet with a radiant star in his coxcomb.” Eugene O’Neill asked him to name his children. James Joyce asked him to complete Finnegans Wake should Joyce himself go blind.

January 28, 2016

Beautiful Deaths: On the World of Gabrielle Wittkop 1

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The tales are less psychological than physiological; how a character thinks matters less than how a body moves, or perishes.

January 25, 2016

Flossing Your Teeth and Reading Dickens: Resolutions for the New Year 2

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In figuring out my own reading resolutions, I realized how much fun it is to hear about what others plan to read this year.

January 21, 2016

The Art of Anonymous Intimacy: My Life as a Reluctant Landlord 1

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We would decidedly not meet the tenants in person. This was business in the modern world: we would be decent and respectful landlords, responsive but disembodied. Nothing more nothing less.

January 20, 2016

Death and Heirs: A View from the San Francisco Housing Market 13

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Listed for $338,000, at that moment the lowest price in the city, the house was called a “contractor’s special;” two of its three bedrooms were qualified on the listing agent’s half-assed flier as “legality unknown.” When we went to the open house, the same agent eyed my eight-months-pregnant stomach and advised me to cover my mouth and nose before stepping inside.

January 19, 2016

Worlds Upon Worlds: On Growing Up Book-Rich 7

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This year, my resolution is simple: to drink profusely of the written word. I will pass along good books; I will write reviews; I will read excerpts in my classes with my students. I will work to cultivate in my community a love for reading.

December 29, 2015

My First Book: Adventures in Learning to Read Japanese 2

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All readers are familiar with the sensation of falling into a book. By their very nature, books invite you to immerse yourself in the world they have constructed. When it comes to a book in another language, however, such immersion feels both familiar and alien.

November 25, 2015

The Filmable Miss Highsmith 8

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What is it that keeps drawing filmmakers to the fiction of Patricia Highsmith?