The Marriage of Tragedy and Comedy

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I’m drawn to humor, especially those fragments that might spring from the darkest cracks. What is happening might not be funny, but the dialogue or description is.

The Risk and Reward of “We” in Poetry

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Poems, Eleanor Wilner has said, are vehicles meant to circumscribe the boundaries of the self, but our individual imaginations are situated within politics and history. Use of the first-person plural, then, can open up the poem’s historical vision.

Reading Herzog in 2018

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Saul Bellow’s novel is often characterized as a rich portrait of a mind in crisis. It’s also an exploration of the role of history—and memory—in personal life.

The Flâneuse: Walking in London and Paris

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We speak of things like ships, cities, and even the earth itself as female, yet men are so often the ones confidently plodding through these spaces, conquering them as they would a female body.

From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan

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Ryan’s fourth novel clocks in at just under two hundred pages, and for most writers, telling the story of multiple characters in such a small space would be a challenge. But this book contains worlds. The reader is always searching for those connections, the echoes and strands that insist

Family and the State in Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire

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Like Mohsin Hamid and Ayad Akhtar, Shamsie is concerned with the ways a post-9/11 West has disrupted the lives of Pakistani Muslim immigrants. But where Hamid and Akhtar limit their scope to the individual experiences of brown men, Shamsie maps out the ways the family reacts to and reflects

Poets Turning to Nonfiction

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How do we tell our stories? What form best fits the autobiographical? For many writers, working in one genre is not sufficient, or else a single genre does not exhaust a writer’s obsession with their subject matter.

Remembering Pain in Allen Ginsberg’s “Kaddish”

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In “Kaddish,” Ginsberg bears witness to his mother’s pain and struggles; he intones her name over and over again as if to deify her. It is in that painful remembrance that, during that panicked time of terrorism and political instability, I drew hope.

Nevada Days by Bernardo Atxaga

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The new, harsh landscape has an immediate effect on the narrator. Reno, to him, is a place with no peace where he exists in a state of permanent jet lag.

Power and Powerlessness in Alexander Chee’s Essay “The Querent”

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Raw from the loss of his father, Chee says he got into Tarot because he “never wanted to be surprised by misfortune again.” In Tarot cards he found a tool that could enable him to take power over a life that had rendered him utterly powerless.