Blake in the Academe

In 1969, Northrop Frye introduced the new edition of his groundbreaking study of the works of the poet William Blake, with some offhand comments about its genesis: “The doctoral thesis…

Stuart Blazer’s Ruffled Surf

That silo you never saw until today was yours the day you were born. –Richard Hugo Why don’t you make a mistake and do something right. –Sun Ra Man was…

Alice Neel: a Radical Portrait

Alice Neel was a handful. She was a visual artist, a proto-feminist, a Thirties radical, and a Sixties icon. She was the mother of four children, an abused woman, and…

Mishandling the Truth

I’m going to review John D’Agata’s new book, Lifespan of a Fact, even though I haven’t read it. But don’t worry. I read D’Agata’s two previous books, Halls of Fame…

Eyebrows, Cigarettes, Etcetera

In Ben Lerner’s debut novel, someone is always lighting a cigarette. Awkward social situation? Time for a smoke. Waiting for a table? Cigarette, please. Terrorist attacks on Madrid’s commuter trains?…

The Forty Days (and 80 Years) of Musa Dagh

Born in Prague in 1890, Franz Werfel lived a peripatetic life as a writer and traveler. He was employed as a teacher in Leipzig and then a soldier in what…

City of the Body

Preocupied with multiculturalism, grounded in urban existence, and resounding with echoes of highbrow European culture, Teju Cole’s debut novel, Open City, would certainly appear messy and pedantic if written by…

Doctorow by Half

Early in All the Time in the World, his third collection of short stories, E.L. Doctorow raises the surprising suggestion that the book might not be worth reading from cover…

No Reason to Get Suspicious

Let’s get this out of the way first: the writing of Paul Legault’s The Other Poems is not beautiful. I’m not sure you can call anything beautiful that features Jean-Paul…

Very Like a Hummingbird

Some things can be fixed by fire, some not. Dearheart, already we’re air. — Dean Young, “Elemental” In her poem “Essay on What I Think About Most,” Anne Carson considers…

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