Essays

July 16, 2010

No More Lying: a Primer on the Novels of B.S. Johnson 1

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Joyce, Beckett and B.S. Johnson all tried to move the novel forward, to shove it out of the 19th-century ditch its spinning wheels seemed only to dig deeper. To tell a story, he thought (and often said), was to tell a lie, to futilely pretend away the chaos of modern existence and pander to humanity’s base, vulgar desire to find out what happened next.

July 15, 2010

Writing Outside Realism: Aimee Bender’s Magical Power 2

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If reading Aimee Bender’s stories was like creeping downstairs in the middle of the night to eat all the leftover cake with my hands — that much better for the darkness, for the raw, guilty lust — this new novel is summer afternoon, garden party fare.

July 14, 2010

The Worth of the Wasted: Shakespeare and Bradley 7

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A. C. Bradley is a better critic in full than he is in bits and pieces, and Shakespearean Tragedy continues to be an exciting book for anyone interested in literature.

July 13, 2010

Colonoscopy: It’s Time to Check Your Colons 43

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And, as evidenced in The New York Times and elsewhere, the punctuation push has indeed gone upward. In comments, threads, emails, blogs, newspapers, and magazines, compelling colons abound.

July 13, 2010

A Chiefest Pleasure: Discovering The Sot-Weed Factor on its 50th Birthday 6

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The deeper you go into your life and your reading, the more precious the long-overlooked gems become once you finally unearth them.

July 9, 2010

Literature is a Manner of Completing Ourselves: A Reader’s Year 17

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If I were an addict, I would get high and while high, presumably, worry about where I was to get my next fix. Reading is not all that different, I think. As a reader, I am always looking over the binding thinking about the next read, in some instances, longing for it. Some books, like some highs, are better than others. But even with not-so-good books, I will come back to the drug, seeking the next high.

July 5, 2010

Between the Pages 10

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Being a reader is like playing tricks with time. You turn the page of the fictional story while an hour of your own passes. The characters breathe, laugh and cry, and so do you. When you finish their tale, you close the book and set it aside, dreaming of their ever-after, while stepping out into yours.

July 2, 2010

Oil Plumes and White Noise: On Rereading DeLillo 1

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We are in a situation similar to the one Delillo lays out in White Noise: things are bad, danger is lurking, but we don’t know its full extent. Our exposure has been consummate, and fatal for the health and economic stability of many, but the final tally is not yet in.

June 23, 2010

The City & The City & The City 13

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I read China Miéville’s The City & The City recently. I’ve been thinking lately about the ways in which our cities are layered, the way different versions of a given city exist as shadows of one another, and coming across a story wherein the layering was so explicit delighted me.

June 22, 2010

The Elusive Omniscient 10

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What seems key about the novel is that what we think of as a historical evolution—or a descent from a unified to a fragmented perspective—isn’t an evolution at all. In fact, the novel has always been insecure. It’s just that the manifestation of its insecurity has changed over time.