Essays

October 15, 2013

Some Words About Wordlessness 1

by

There’s something about a six-month-old’s wordless interactions with the world that brings to mind the simple truth that a human is an animal.

October 11, 2013

Love and Loss and Grief and More Love: On Self-Help Literature 5

by

That hospital visit, which was longer than expected, I moved from Housekeeping to Beloved to A Personal Matter. And though these three books are so different that their authors might be surprised to see them all appear in the same sentence, they are linked in my mind, for the broad understandings they offered me of suffering and joy, and the complications of love.

October 11, 2013

Paper Tiger: Irish Financial Fiction after the Bust 2

by

Irish writers have begun to take stock of the post-Tiger years in ways that attest to the global nature of the bust. Two in particular, Aifric Campbell and Alan Glynn, offer compelling if wildly divergent responses to the challenge of representing in fictional terms what Campbell calls “the closed world” of the financial industry.

October 10, 2013

The Past is What Matters: On Margaret Atwood’s Vision of the Future 3

by

For Atwood, the speculative effort is to imagine not just what the future might bring, but also what it might take away.

October 8, 2013

Two Years After Timeline: Facebook and The Neverending Story 4

by

It’s been just over two years since Facebook first replaced walls with timelines, and the anniversary begs reflection. Might it truly be Facebook, and not the e-book, that threatens the paperback?

October 4, 2013

A Space that Occupies You: On Being in and Inspired by the Shower 2

by

And if I begin to masturbate in the shower (as occasionally a married man with toddlers may do), then I use more hot, clean water, and after ejaculation I feel as pathetic and solemn as if I were seated in church asking the good Lord for something I don’t deserve.

October 2, 2013

It Has Always Been Thus 8

by

Critics who have taken up the dead author standard would have us regard creative work as an elaborate Freudian slip: don’t read for what a writer is trying to say, read for what they’ve said in spite of themselves. That’s wrong. Literature (and all the arts, really) is the product of concentrated, intelligent minds to which we are granted intimate, but temporary and incomplete, access.

September 30, 2013

You Must Read Kevin Barry 2

by

Kevin Barry’s new collection of stories, Dark Lies the Island, shares the virtues that made his debut novel, City of Bohane, such an astonishment. There is rich music, high humor and deep blackness on every page.

September 27, 2013

Losing Yourself: What The Secret History Tells Us About the Liberal Arts 7

by

We are told the liberal arts are a way of experiencing life; we are told the schools and institutions that teach the humanities to students are not merely teaching texts but fostering great citizens and empathetic human beings. From these descriptions, the liberal arts seem like a kind of magic medicine that will make you smarter, cooler, better.

September 26, 2013

Playing Survivor on Novel Island 1

by

“The babies know just what they need to do,” observed one seasoned mother, watching my son on the playground. He was standing at an iron gate performing what honestly looked like a series of leg-strengthening exercises. He was very focused, very serious. He didn’t need a sign reminding him not to start any new projects.