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…

Enmeshed in War: Evelio Rosero’s The Armies

Colombia is almost certainly among the most difficult places on Earth for an outsider to understand. For forty years, the country has been embroiled in a civil war that pits…

The Transformation of Roses

It is tempting, as William H. Gass writes in Reading Rilke (Basic Books), to organize Rainer Maria Rilke’s life story around the several themes that obsessed and stalked him, particularly the image…

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….

The Closed Circuit Game: a Hippie Noir

The end ennobles every act. — Honoré de Balzac, “The Atheist” But wait, there’s more! — Ed Valenti Thomas Pynchon is too difficult. He is overly tortuous (and torturous). In…

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…

The Sensuous Archaism of C.P. Cavafy

W.H. Auden famously observed that Cavafy’s poetry seemed to survive translation remarkably well, and that it was marked by “a tone of voice, a personal speech immediately recognizable as a…

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