Essays

March 17, 2011

Henry James and the Joys of Binge Reading 18

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It is clear that James is not passé, and never was. He is, in fact, perhaps more relevant than ever; but his works lie in a strange place outside of time, and they were written that way.

March 16, 2011

Birth Stories: On Books About Having a Baby 15

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Now that I’m pregnant myself (26 weeks along at the time of this writing), it’s becoming increasingly clear that the stories women hear about childbirth affect their attitudes about it.

March 9, 2011

Experimental Champions: Three European Masterworks Worth Reconsidering 8

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European writers have the ability (perhaps the freedom) to be applauded as experimentalists, while also being championed by the literary establishment.

March 8, 2011

Grief, the Cruel and Fickle Muse 21

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Grief, all of a sudden, is hot.  Books by authors who have lost a loved one are becoming so common they’re now a classifiable snowflake in the unending blizzard of memoirs.

March 4, 2011

Zooming Out: How Writers Create Our Visual Grammar 19

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Think of the long list of visual cues we take for granted. How do we know, without struggling to process the fact, that a scene shot from three angles by three cameras is the same scene? How can we tell the difference in emotional register between a series of rapid-fire cuts and a single, slow, agonizing take?

March 3, 2011

Are You, Or Have You Ever Been, a Jewish Writer? 16

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We were called up, one after another, and allotted two minutes each.  They sat in front of us, mostly late-middle aged, mostly female, presumably Jewish, all of them with reading glasses and notebooks—the scariest possible bar mitzvah crowd, deciding whom to invite to speak to their particular audiences, in San Diego or Palm Springs or Shaker Heights.

March 1, 2011

Insidious Devices: An Introduction to ‘The Late American Novel’ 9

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The written word’s last big format change turned out to be a pretty big deal, fomenting revolutions and laying the groundwork for civil society, the scientific revolution, and nothing less than modernity itself.

February 25, 2011

The Great Divide: Writing Across Gender 20

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Do we ever really “forget” the author? Does she ever truly recede when we are reading gender-crossing works? Do we necessarily want her to?

February 24, 2011

Modes of Imagining the Writer of the Future 7

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The writer of the future will crouch in wind-swept aeries miles above the electronic din of the modern world, crafting feathers out of the leaves of old books.

February 24, 2011

The Pen, Mightier 35

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We care about what our words look like because we somewhere believe that this says something about who we are beyond font or scrawl.