Essays

August 8, 2014

A New Lease on Apathy: On Samuel Beckett’s Echo’s Bones 1

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No one is tougher on a Beckett character than Beckett, and perhaps no character receives as much abuse as the first major one, Belacqua Shuah.

August 7, 2014

Nothing Is at Stake: On Shakespeare, Lana Del Rey, and the Relatable 11

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Maybe Shakespeare sucks because — and to the extent that — life sucks.

August 6, 2014

Everyone Is Looking: On American Expat Literature 1

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It’s impossible, of course, to sum up the vast breadth of expat literature, but we can still make out, in these stories, how we and a great deal of Europe have interpreted our character as a nation.

August 5, 2014

The Art of Close Writing 9

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Close writing really is an amazing thing. Consider that this essay right now has been narrated in the third person, and yet there is no question as to what Clark’s opinions are.

August 4, 2014

Extinction Stories: The Ecological True-Crime Genre 1

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We are living in the midst of the worst die-off since the dinosaurs fell victim to an asteroid 65 million years ago. Whatever the proximal causes, human beings are the asteroids this time.

July 31, 2014

The Academy of Rambling-On: On Bohumil Hrabal’s Fiction 0

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Read the stories. Read the novels. Just read Hrabal.

July 25, 2014

Italo Calvino’s Science Fiction Masterpiece 8

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Cosmicomics is that rarity among progressive texts: its premises are absurd and almost incoherent, yet the plot lines are filled with romance, drama, and conflicts that draw the readers deeper and deeper into the text.

July 24, 2014

New Edition, Old Problems: On Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises 21

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My first response to the new edition was to wonder whether it was an attempt to steer readers away from the unsavory aspects of the novel, a trigger warning-age sanding down of edges.

July 17, 2014

A Vanished World of Readers: On Joanna Rakoff’s My Salinger Year 0

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A less-heralded casualty of the digital age is the disintegration of the lower rungs of the ladder that have long led young, smart readers into the caste of professional tastemakers.

July 15, 2014

A Degree in Books 9

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This is what college should be like — all shade, dusty books, and lofty conversation.