Author Archive

On the Enduring Appeal of the Bildungsroman

Author: | Categories: Reading No comments
Though genre forms and conventions have changed rapidly throughout the short history of the novel, the popularity of one subspecies has endured: the bildungsroman, or coming-of-age novel.
<

“Why Doctors Make Natural Writers”

Author: | Categories: Reading No comments
Doctors have been writers for as long as they have been doctors. The disciplinary divide between the humanities and sciences is a recent invention. Judging by the quantity and quality of writing by doctors in the past several decades alone, I might also suggest that some of our best
<

Mary Gordon’s Spending: A Different Breed of Fantasy Lit

Author: | Categories: Reading No comments
Several years back, I read a book that was unlike nearly any other I’d read before in one striking way: nothing particularly bad happened in it. The protagonist experienced minor internal struggles and dilemmas, but basically, everything came up roses. This felt like a major departure from Great Literature
<

Dogs in the Literary Imagination

Author: | Categories: Reading, Writing No comments
From Odysseus’s faithful Argos to White Fang to Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Shiloh, dogs have occupied the centers and peripheries of human stories since we began telling them. It’s no wonder; dogs were first domesticated by hunter-gatherers (not, as many believe, by agriculturalists) over 15,000 years ago, the first species
<

People of the Book: Jewish Lessons in Reading

Author: | Categories: Reading No comments
The postmodernists are often credited with originating the idea that all the world’s a text, a constellation of signs and symbols to be read and reread unto eternity. Really, it was the Jews. Judaism is a religion obsessed with text and textuality, with making meaning through the cultivation of
<

The Weird Nineteenth Century

Author: | Categories: Reading No comments
The reputation of the nineteenth century novel tends to precede its reading. By this I mean: few readers come to first contact with the likes of JANE EYRE, MIDDLEMARCH, or TESS without some established prejudice for or against the genre, usually in the milieu of a middle or high
<

Moments in the Rose-Garden: The Literature of Stillness

Author: | Categories: Reading, Writing No comments
When my brother and I were kids, my parents would watch what we called “screensaver movies”: films that moved at a leisurely pace and boasted periods of little action in the traditional sense, featuring instead long, lingering shots of landscapes, interiors, characters’ expressions. We mocked and groused.
<

The Poetics of Madness: Reading and Writing Mental Illness

Author: | Categories: Reading, Writing No comments
In a sense, madness (to use an archaic but attractive term) is a problem of narrative. To put it plainly: mental illness makes it difficult to know just what the heck is going on, or to what extent one’s perceptions of events can be trusted.
<

Go West, Young Man: America and the Literature of Place

Author: | Categories: Reading No comments
All literature is, in a sense, the literature of place—for all literature takes place someplace, calls up a setting with all its specificity of look, taste, sound. To ask the essential question of literature—How do we live?—is also necessarily to ask: Where do we live?
<

Readers in Exile: The Elsewheres of Andre Aciman

Author: | Categories: Authors No comments
André Aciman, novelist, essayist, and professor, has produced a body of work obsessed by exile. It’s no wonder; Aciman grew up a Sephardic Jew in Alexandria for the first 14 years of his life. Following Israel’s invasion of Egypt the family was forced to leave for Italy.
<