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…

No Room at the End (diptych): Henri Cole

A thirty-foot spider made of stainless steel perches outside of London’s Tate Modern Museum. Artist Louise Bourgeois’ sculpture Maman is grotesque and elegant, vulnerable and out of place on its long uneven…

Mythomania: Zachary Mason’s Fantasies

Odysseus suffers—if that’s the word for it—from a perpetual fascination with his own cleverness, and The Odyssey thoroughly documents its hero’s indulgence in this fascination: Odysseus constantly dares, playing with…

Reading Gabriel Gudding

I. G.G. and the Humble Sublime Gabriel Gudding is an upstart crow, the only shake-scene in the country. The scene he shakes and bobbles is not merely the snow-globe of…

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…

Running on Fumes: Jim Harrison’s In Search of Small Gods

A successful Orphic poetics often depends on the poet’s ability to arrest the reader’s critical faculties and to sustain that suspension across a traumatic arc. It is a high-romantic, if…

Soprascarpa di Gomma: Poisonville

In 1929, a year before his classic The Maltese Falcon was published, Dashiell Hammett began his debut novel Red Harvest with these two lines: “I first heard Personville called Poisonville…

Off-beat: Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist

Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist is a strange book: part idiosyncratic poetry manual, part disconnected personal narrative. The first line of the novel, if you can comfortably call it that, pulls…

Diet Verse: John Ashbery’s Planisphere

“Readings” of John Ashbery’s poetry have been a contentious point in critical and scholarly circles for more than half a century. It is commonly held by acolytes and detractors alike…

Violence & Evasion: the Novels of Margarita Karapanou

In an interview I once conducted with the Greek writer Amanda Michalopoulou, author of the short story collection I’d Like (Dalkey, 2008), the question of literary precursors came about, and in particular…

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