On Nonfiction


With the Desert Surrounding

I. City of Extremes Is it possible for any one city to represent a nation as diverse and complex as America? Perhaps it is, in times of major crises, when…


Slight Arms ’Round the Cypress Bough

In January, 2010, The Guardian asked former UK poet laureate Andrew Motion, “Why are we all still so hung up on the Romantics?” It may at first seem an odd question: a…

Living Dolls
by Natasha Walter
Softcover, £12.95
Little, Brown

A Choice of Bondage: Our Hypersexual Culture

In Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa’s daughter Elizabeth takes a short trip on an omnibus, from Westminster down the Strand toward St. Paul’s Cathedral. She is the only character in…

Dribbles, Drabbles, Micro- & Flash (Oh my)

Frances Theodora Parsons’ How to Know the Wild Flowers—written under the pseudonym Mrs. William Star Dana, published in 1893, and acknowledged as the first true “field guide”—begins with a brief section…

From the Encyclopedic to the Personal

On December 10, 1982, Gabriel García Márquez received the Nobel Prize for Literature. In his new biography of the renowned Columbian writer, Gerald Martin describes the occasion: Now, defiantly dressed…

“A Congealed Nebulosity”

Reading Geoffrey Hill’s Collected Critical Writings feels a lot like what it might to step into a graduate seminar in 19th and 20th century poetry without having taken the prerequisite courses, or…

Close Calls with Nonsense 
by Stephen Burt 
Softcover, $19.00
Graywolf Press

Ellipses and Trust: Stephen Burt’s Close Calls with Nonsense

In the preface to this collection of essays and reviews, Stephen Burt describes the “business of critics”: it is “not to assign stars, or to pick winners in poet vs….

Medium Heat: The Essays of Leonard Michaels

Wine enthusiasts and literary critics share a vocabulary on all too many occasions: scintillating, tasteful, nuanced, and so forth. From time to time, though, one comes across an author who…

Nostalgia on the Bookshelf

It is impossible to talk about books, nowadays; to talk about books without nostalgia creeping into the discourse; though perhaps, to speak the lingo, perhaps ‘twas always so. Whether the…

Writing by Degrees: the Program Era

Just as Hugh Kenner’s formidable 1973 classic The Pound Era traces innovations in literature between the world wars by following the literary juggernaut Ezra Pound, Mark McGurl takes the period after World…