Essays

September 3, 2007

The World’s Longest Novel 6

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9/24: Welcome Kottke.org readers. Thanks for stopping by. Once you’re done reading about The World’s Longest Novel, check out some of our more recent articles or have a look at our Notable Posts, listed in the right sidebar. If you like what you see, subscribe to our RSS feed. –The Millions Over the years, there […]

August 24, 2007

In The Groves of Academe: A Report from the English Department and Some Thoughts on Graduate School 7

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Graduate school in the humanities, particularly a doctorate in literature, is not a life choice whose value and purpose are necessarily self-evident. Some people look confused when I tell them that I am getting a Ph.D. in eighteenth-century British literature. Most others respond with some version of, “What do you do with that?” What follows […]

August 22, 2007

Why Bolaño Matters 3

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I.Every so often, one feels the great gears of canonization creaking into motion. A long critical essay in The New Republic or the New York Review will direct our attention to an overlooked contemporary poet, or beg our reconsideration of a novelist too long out-of-print. A month later, another such essay will appear in another […]

July 27, 2007

A History of Magic: A Children’s Librarian Reflects on Harry Potter, and Offers a Post-Hogwarts Syllabus 3

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As the media phenomenon du jour, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has put pressure on the commentariat to provide Potter-related context or controversy – anything to get readers to spend a few minutes with us, rather than J.K. Rowling! And herein lies a danger: in our zeal to ride Harry’s coattails (broomstick?) to glory, […]

July 22, 2007

Neal Stephenson, Polymath 0

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I doubt that I could improve on John Derbyshire’s review of the Baroque Cycle, Neal Stephenson’s “octology” of historical fiction. The Baroque Cycle is actually three big volumes: Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World, all published in 2003 and 2004. There are some well-respected American writers out there who have published bricks […]

July 18, 2007

Notebooks Elevated: On The Unquiet Grave: A Word Cycle by Palinurus (Cyril Connolly) 0

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How to describe Cyril Connolly’s The Unquiet Grave: It is one of those books – like The Anatomy of Melancholy, The Compleat Angler, Minima Moralia, A Tale of a Tub, Urne Buriall – that defies all conventions of genre and, thereby, easy description. Though I have concerned myself much with the academic question of what […]

June 7, 2007

The Golden O: Dispatches from Oprah’s Book Club 5

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My wife, Edan Lepucki, is a newly-minted member of the Oprah Book Club. She also has an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a story forthcoming from CutBank. So basically, she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to the books and the reading business. Plus, she’s totally hot. Here’s her […]

June 6, 2007

Confessions of a Cat Lady 3

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The reviewer would like to confront, at the start of her first review, the occasionally embarrassing fact that at some point in the recent past she was considering – never mind with what degree of seriousness – a dissertation on eighteenth-century cats and their literary and cultural significance. Having been told by the advisor seemingly […]

May 22, 2007

Bitter Pill: The Modern Medicine Lament 4

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“My Best Friend, my doctor, won’t even say what it is I’ve got.”-Bob Dylan I recently became aware of a trend, the Modern Medicine Lament, in which American writers struggle to make an uneasy peace with a system from which they feel alienated. And it begs the question: has it always been this way? Doctors […]

May 20, 2007

Scrimping on Syllables: Aikin’s Unusual Adaptations 2

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I got an email the other day from long-time Millions reader Laurie, who sends us links and dispatches from time to time. Her email included a link to a peculiar book called The Swiss Family Robinson in Words of One Syllable. “Have you seen this?” She asked. “Is this for real?” I hadn’t seen it, […]