Author Archive

Frame Stories and the Passage of Time

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If one purpose of a frame story in a novel is to prime the reader to listen to what might be a long or meandering tale, what’s the purpose of a frame in a short story?

Beginning a Bildungsroman

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A tantalizing bildungsroman beginning convinces the reader not only that the protagonist is worth listening to, or that the world of the novel is worth observing, but also that there is an interesting friction between the narrator and her surroundings.

Mystery, Adventure, and Coming of Age

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Lore Segal’s “Dandelion” and Karen Russell’s “The Bad Graft” are two expedition stories set in vastly different worlds.

In the Hotel Lobbies of Sam Shepard and Sally Rooney

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Hotels by nature are spaces of temporary, transitory, and hard-to-classify encounters. Setting a story in a hotel frees characters to have discussions they might otherwise not have, to do things they might otherwise refrain from doing.

Reading Winter

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In poems by Margaret Atwood, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Robert Frost, we get a sense of the claustrophobia of winter without being overpowered by it.

Revisiting Alice Munro’s “Material”

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Munro raises questions about the relationship between two things that often coincide in writers: the first is a certain amount of self-indulgence and self-mythologizing; the second is the difficult work of putting aside the ego and observing the world.

Domestic Whimsy in Fascism’s Shadow

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Natalia Ginzburg’s 1963 novel is a record of a lost world and a lost way of life. Its insistently domestic narrative style, in its humanizing particularity, is also an act of resistance against the ascendant totalitarian ideologies looming over its characters’ lives.

Exploring the Self in Orlando and The Puttermesser Papers

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Virginia Woolf and Cynthia Ozick both feature protagonists who flaunt societal gender-based expectations like marriage and children in their mock-biographies.

How Can We Be Happy in a World Full of Suffering?

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Olivia Laing, in her new novel, writes of a feeling that resonates: “She felt blank. She felt blank and mildly hysterical, she was itching to do something but it wasn’t clear what.”

Eudora Welty and Place in Storytelling

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In her essay “Place in Fiction,” originally delivered as a lecture at Duke in 1955, Eudora Welty almost immediately positions place as an antidote to broad generalizations about human experience.