Essays

September 26, 2014

A Thousand Words and Then Some: On Literary Portraiture and Alessandro Baricco’s Mr. Gwyn 0

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Chronicling a fatigued writer’s efforts to reinvent himself as a copyist, a profession which he himself admits doesn’t properly exist, Mr. Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn are the portrait and self-portrait, respectively, of a linguistic portraitist.

September 26, 2014

Kim Philby, Jack Reacher, and Spy-Novel Nationalism 7

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The United States has not developed a spy-novel nationalism able to stand on its own two feet.

September 25, 2014

My Disease Feels Beautiful to Me: On the Work of Raúl Zurita 10

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Zurita was carrying a file, the poems that would become the book Purgatorio, when he was arrested the morning of September 11, 1973, and the arresting officers suspected his papers might include coded messages. The senior military officer who made the final decision about Zurita’s potentially subversive writings threw the poems into the sea.

September 23, 2014

Human Resources: On Joshua Ferris 15

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Rarely has a writer as abundantly praised and rewarded as Joshua Ferris also been misunderstood and even ill-served by reviewers.

September 22, 2014

Influence and Inheritance: New Translations from Spanish Master Giralt Torrente 0

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Giralt Torrente, knowing there is no redemption, still writes the memoir that strives to redeem its subjects.

September 22, 2014

The Trouble with Writing 24

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The trouble with writing is that it is often a roller coaster pitching us between grandiosity and despair.

September 16, 2014

Dan Epstein on the Hairy Goofy Polyester Glory of 1970s Baseball 0

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In Epstein I discovered a smart writer who actually reveled in the cheesiness of the 1970s. And he did it without the killing smirk of irony.

September 15, 2014

The Profits of Dreaming: On Fiction and Sleep 3

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But in the absence of conclusive evidence, sleep’s utility—like that of fiction—is still in doubt. How much, in the end, does either one matter?

September 10, 2014

The Magic Building Where English Majors Work: Making Sense of Creative Writing’s Job Problem 19

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When is the right time to tell aspiring writers about their job prospects? In graduate school? Before they even apply to graduate school? Or sooner than that even—in their first creative writing class? Never? Let them Google it because it’s just too depressing otherwise?

September 8, 2014

The Art of Homage 1

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Homage is a way of acknowledging our forbearers, to celebrate where we came from by updating the past, calling back to it, poking fun at it, challenging it, embracing it, adoring it.