Essays

September 23, 2011

Can Sexual Violence in Movies Be Edifying? From Straw Dogs to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo 14

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The experience, whatever the intellectual payoff, is inevitably tinged with a feeling of troubling complicity: Am I self-hating? A pervert? Does having gotten something out of that movie make me “a bad person”?

September 20, 2011

The Talking Cure at Work in Contemporary YA Fiction 7

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As an English professor and unabashed therapy-junkie, I recently made it my business to read every YA novel I could find in which an adolescent protagonist visits a psychotherapist.

September 15, 2011

Fifty Years On: Jane Jacobs and the Rebirth of New York 6

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Jacobs’ message is simple: a city, and thus a society, lives and dies by how well it can build a creative environment for its citizens to innovate their way out of trouble.

September 15, 2011

Girlhood, Womanhood, Friendship, and Loss 5

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It may be true that coming-of-age tropes are prevalent and typical — but I wonder, then, why are they (especially the well written ones) consistently so alluring?

September 14, 2011

9 Ways of Looking at a Single Paragraph 7

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It was during the summer of 2009 that I first read the opening paragraph to German novelist Peter Handke’s 1970 novel, The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick. It remains the most tantalizingly confusing paragraph I’ve ever read.

September 13, 2011

Writing the Jersey Shore in the Age of Reality TV 4

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As I finalized revisions to my book, I wondered how readers’ perceptions of the place I had spent years writing about were possibly being shaped by the antics of people named Snooki and The Situation.

September 12, 2011

My Biggest Fan 8

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Sometime after he died, I had what I think we literary types call an epiphany. My father was a fan. I hadn’t known. Or if I’d known, I hadn’t thought of it that way.

September 12, 2011

Nobody Hearts L.A.: A Personal Los Angeles Canon 10

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I asked all the readers I could for their recommendations of “alternative,” “adventurous,” “unusual,” “non-canonical,” or just “weird” Los Angeles novels.

September 10, 2011

Recovery in Pieces: A Study of the Literature of 9/11 15

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We can’t blame earnest authors for trying. It just wasn’t long enough ago yet.

September 9, 2011

Strange Flights 2

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In April 2001, I was offered the most interesting part-time job I’ve ever had. For $7.25 an hour I began working at my local airport.