Author Archive

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.

Photography and Language in John McPhee’s “Under the Cloth”

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The view camera creates a particular kind of image through extreme pause and meticulous composition; by writing about a view camera, McPhee creates a particular kind of essay, one that uses the techniques of both view camera photography and narrative.

The Cocoon and the Vista: Rebecca Solnit and Czeslaw Milosz on Vastness

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Both Solnit and Milosz transform picturesque vistas into fully alive places on the page. Their methods are instructive not only for writing about place, but as tools for toggling between any set of Big Questions and the particulars of moving as a body through streets.

Writing Return: Birthplace and the Perils and Pleasures of Nostalgia

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I’ve often resisted writing about the place I was born. To write about birthplace is to open one’s writing up to a number of potential pitfalls. We feel strongly about the places we come from, and often for uninteresting, arbitrary, or vaguely narcissistic reasons.

Conversations about Trees: Engagement and Retreat in Brecht, Rich, and Marvell

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Nature offers the comforting suggestion of continuity, an awareness of scale; it can be both menacing and welcoming; it’s fertile ground for symbol and simile. However, in times of heightened political tension, poems about trees can feel like a cop-out, or especially irrelevant.

Time and Narrative Structure in Gina Berriault’s “The Infinite Passion of Expectation”

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The first time I read Gina Berriault’s story “The Infinite Passion of Expectation,” I experienced it as an inundation. The plot is strange but simple: a young waitress goes on frequent walks with an eccentric, aging psychologist, who eventually asks her to marry him—she’s unsure. The psychologist lives an

Nature and the Mind in Cynthia Ozick’s “The Pagan Rabbi”

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In “The Pagan Rabbi,” nature is not a fixed, objective entity, but an animated, unpredictable, menacing presence. Set in the shadow of World War II, the story follows one scholar’s increasingly surreal perception of the natural world.

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?

Cyclicality and Distance in Two Stories by Breece D’J Pancake

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Breece D’J Pancake’s stories often begin in the intersection of the highly permanent and the temporary, and unfurl in moments of instability.

Defiant Witches & Deceitful Echoes: Reading Katherine Anne Porter’s Poetry

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Poetry was never Katherine Anne Porter’s central pursuit: as Darlene Harbour Unrue notes in her introduction to Katherine Anne Porter’s Poetry, Porter was “never a first-rate poet, by her own admission.” But the pieces within are hypnotic—Porter’s distinctive and authoritative speakers conjure vast worlds in small spaces.