Jail Bait

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The adult-man-plus-teenage-girl plot is a common enough version of the coming-of-age narrative, and I’ve recently revisited two novels with it, both written by women: Sue Miller’s Lost in the Forest and Elizabeth Strout’s Amy and Isabelle.

Fiction Responding to Fiction: James Joyce and William Trevor

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Two Irish masters of the short story, one following quite literally in the other’s footsteps. William Trevor’s story “Two More Gallants,” published in 1986 in the collection The News From Ireland, takes as its subject James Joyce’s story “Two Gallants” from The Dubliners, published in 1914.

Please Come Flying

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“Please come flying,” Elizabeth Bishop pleads with Marianne Moore, in her poem "Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore" (1955), “above the accidents, above the malignant movies, / the taxicabs and injustices at large.” This will—passed between two poets and friends—to alight from the predictable rhythms of crimes made regular, enmediated,

The Poetics of Bewilderment

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Perhaps it’s paradoxical to want to define bewilderment, much less bewilderment as a poetics, given that the word generally refers to a state of confusion, an unmooring from the resolute signifiers that compose our comfortable, if not tidal and illusory, understanding of reality.

Review: NOMADLAND by Jessica Bruder

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Through folk meet-ups and underground websites, Amazon seasonal packing facilities and middle American ghost towns, Bruder’s book peers into the heart of the modern American housing crisis and lifts the curtain on the forgotten multitudes hiding in plain sight.

The Readers: William H. Gass and Documenting the Self

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Behaving authentically in the world is never easy or straightforward; critics like William Gass show us, among many other things, that we are not alone in these questions of authenticity, and that we never really have been.

Prose Like A River: The Rhythm of Landscape in Angela Palm’s Riverine

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When I was growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I loved to picnic with family on the bank of Cove Creek and listen, while we smacked our lips from cherry cobbler, to the creek gulp itself. Hollows between rocks sloshed pell-mell down the current’s throat. Whirlpools gargled a

Fake News, Real Stories

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Literary fiction in 2017 expounded on the gritty realities that the Trump Administration obscures. Socially relevant fiction this year resonated with readers hungry for truth.

For the Love of Boys

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I don’t pretend to understand Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts. The materials she has read, the level of her intellectual thinking, as well as the life she leads—and conveys in this memoir—are several levels of complexity and depth beyond what I can comfortably claim to know.

Disaster, Proximity, and Poetry

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News images of natural disaster can be paradoxically surreal, especially if the disaster’s happening in a place you know and love, but have left. How might poets capture complicated interactions between fire and familiarity, fire and violence, distance, and detachment from disaster?