Essays

October 13, 2011

The Gay Question: Death in Venice, By Nightfall, and The Art of Fielding 19

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Is it possible for an otherwise straight man to be struck by a bolt of gay lightning and next scene end up declaring his undying love to a beautiful young Adonis?

October 11, 2011

Bartleby’s Occupation of Wall Street 39

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If Occupy Wall Street has any goal, it should be to have the same effect that great literature has — to unsettle.

October 10, 2011

Bad Bookshops: An Appreciation 12

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As great as it is to be able to choose whatever you want on Amazon, sometimes what you really want is to have no choice at all.

October 6, 2011

What a Wonderful Drag It Is Getting Old: Mona Simpson’s Anywhere but Here 3

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I would never say this explicitly, but I think to myself, dear niece or nephew: I understand how exasperating or sometimes insane your parents can seem, but try to remember that they would do anything for you, that they have lived for you.

October 4, 2011

The Pure Writer’s Heart: Fante, Father, and Son 4

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The calamities of John Fante’s career are well known and threaten to overtake his fiction as the most important element of his life.

September 29, 2011

An Open Letter to the Swedish Academy 50

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Can we please stop the nonsense and give Philip Roth a Nobel Prize for Literature before he dies?

September 27, 2011

Dueling Russia: Myth, Veracity, and Literature 6

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Fictional narratives of the duel conveniently bolstered contemporary desire. Think about it: would you rather believe you were enforcing an ancient honor code or acknowledge the fact that your murderous desire is barbarous and shameful?

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.