September 28, 2007

The Nail Polish Method 3


When the Virginia Quarterly Review recently posted the ten most common story titles submitted to the magazine in the last year, I was relieved that none of my own titles stared back at me from the list. Then again, if I were to name a story “Butterfly” or “Revelation,” perhaps I shouldn’t be writing it […]

September 24, 2007

Confessions of a Non-Linear Reader (What’s That Book About?) 3


I used to be a monogamist. I honored that voice in my head that intoned “Thou shalt read just one book at a time” (it was the voice of my high school English teacher, Ms. Denize.) But something happened to me this summer – some unnoticed change took place – and now here I am […]

September 18, 2007

Nothing is Dead Yet: The Era of the Trusted Fellow Reader 3


What if right now is the golden age of the book, or even the golden age of literary fiction? What if we are living in the golden age of reading, writing, and criticism? But all around us, the dominant trope of the day is death. Is it possible that a decade of poor management at […]

September 11, 2007

The Myth of the 9/11 Novel 1


On this sad anniversary, USA Today trots out the now tired question, asking for, as if we’re all looking for it, the mythical novel that will explain and place into context the tragedy of six years ago. In this case, USA Today points out the uninspiring sales of “novels inspired by 9/11” as compared to […]

September 3, 2007

The World’s Longest Novel 6


9/24: Welcome 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


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


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


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


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


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 […]