Essays

August 8, 2013

The Asking is Both Graceful and Profound: On the Stories of Josephine Rowe 0

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In the absence of context, only the things that are truly important remain: someone was here, and freight trains broke their heart, and someone wanted them to stay but they didn’t.

August 2, 2013

Look. No, Don’t Look: My Book Cover, the Angel in the House, and Me 8

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If the cover accurately expressed the feel and content of the novel, and the cover embarrassed me, what did that say about my relationship to my work?

July 25, 2013

The Problem With Summer Reading 33

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Summer reading assignments and reading quizzes and book reports don’t teach our students how to be readers. They teach them that reading is a school-centered activity. That it is a chore. That they aren’t good at it if they can’t remember insignificant plot points. These assignments set students up to cheat, or to fail, and always to regard reading as a drag.

July 24, 2013

Shepherding Sadness: The Fiction of Mia Couto 3

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Why all this recent success for a writer that you’ve probably never heard of? Couto is a master at inverting reality, reversing the order of the world with a swift aphoristic grace that leaves us puzzling over our normal assumptions.

July 22, 2013

Smells Like Words 24

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I learned smells from books, which made me think they were fictional. When real people said That stinks, or I can smell the sea from here, I thought they were faking, that they were willing to pretend those smells existed beyond the page. I only discovered the word for people like me a few years ago. We are anosmic; we have anosmia: lack of the sense of smell.

July 22, 2013

Farewell to the Enchanted City 2

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In the vast realm of “leaving New York” essays, Joan Didion’s “Goodbye to All That” says everything that has ever needed to be said — but better.

July 11, 2013

My Happy, Hopeful News 20

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As easily as one dream is satisfied, another one appears.

July 10, 2013

Peculiar Perambulation: On the Literature of Silly Walks 7

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Our literary ramble will not include docented tours through Thomas Hardy’s Wessex and Charles Dickens’s London; nor the strolls in Jane Austen novels during which much is usually decided. Our route will include those walks that are less picturesque, less momentous, less worthy of remembrance, those that in their sheer absurdity inspire derision rather than aesthetic revelation.

July 10, 2013

The Greatest American Novel? 9 Experts Share Their Opinions 103

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When you set out to debate “the great American novel,” the stakes are high. We asked nine English scholars to choose one novel as the greatest our country has ever produced.

July 1, 2013

Frank O’Hara’s Lessons for Being Gay 6

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In this moment of giving thanks and talking about what the new gay future looks like, I’d like to propose a toast to a man we owe more to than we have ever admitted.