Essays

April 3, 2015

Difficult, Dated, Frustrating, Prophetic: Teaching Thomas Pynchon 15

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The movement toward skills-based education in the humanities has also created an effort-return mentality: the expectation that a text can, or should, be distilled into a single sentence. Don’t we want students who know how to handle messes?

April 2, 2015

Unquote: The Benefits of Excising Quotation Marks 16

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Let’s let the voice of our characters sing, come to life –– let their words pop of the page, because they are no longer chained to it.

March 31, 2015

Getting Meta about Mules: Faulkner and the Fine Art of Slowing Down 1

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The Reivers is a thematic wolf in sheep’s clothing, and remains one of the weightiest road-trip novels ever written.

March 30, 2015

Eight for Eight: A Literary Reader for Passover 0

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What follows is a literary sampling inspired by Pesach: eight books for the eight nights of the holiday.

March 27, 2015

Scorebooks and Commonplace Books 0

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Though the scorebook does occasionally record the spectacular, for the most part its method is antithetical to the commonplace book. One chronicles the monotonous; the other collects the exceptional.

March 26, 2015

Literary Prowess Lost: On Mo Yan’s ‘Frog’ and the Trouble with Translation 6

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It’s a catch-22: To be proficient enough in the language to be an accurate translator requires a high level of education, but just such an education can cripple the ability of the translator to render the text accurately.

March 19, 2015

Reader, I Muted Him: The Narrative Possibilities of Networked Life 14

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Authors are writing from a networked world and seeing life through that lens whether they allow it to their characters or not. So why not embrace it? Why not make it matter, because it already does however much we doth protest?

March 17, 2015

Will All You Literary Biographers Please Be Quiet, Please? 9

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Here’s a modest proposal: Let’s outlaw the literary biography.

March 12, 2015

Our Best Work: On Man Ray’s Hollywood Album and Me 1

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Something sticks with me, though: What you do to pay the bills is your life’s work. You drive the 405 and take the tram or shuttle and sit at your desk. You have lunch with your supervisor. There are sick days and vacation days and time in between.

March 12, 2015

In a Weird Way: A Brief History 1

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In the early 20th century, “in a weird way” begins to loosen its meaning, allowing for new possibilities: not only to describe an externally observed “weird” occurrence or action, but to convey a particular kind of internal subjective state of questioning uncertainty.