Author Archive

The Readers: Ismail Muhammad and Encounters with Ghosts

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Muhammad’s criticism is far-reaching, pulling together literature, politics, and religion in a quest to reckon with the black experience in modern America.

The Readers: Scott Esposito and the Redemptive Powers of Translation

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We misunderstand each other and we pull away. Even within one language like English, words mean different things to different people, and we gravitate towards those who use this meaning-making technology as we do. Some people struggle to differentiate between systemic issues and issues of personality. The quest for

The Readers: Daphne Merkin and All Our Regular Hells

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In her memoir This Close to Happy: A Reckoning with Depression, New York writer Daphne Merkin calls herself “a poor little rich girl” before anyone else can; raised by philanthropist parents on Park Avenue, her financial privileges are plain.

The Readers: Cynthia Ozick and Backward Glances

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It seems fitting that the title of Ozick’s latest book reads like a list or exercise in taxonomy: the book is rampant with clear-eyed perceptions and smooth digs, classic wit and a keen interest in dividing and categorizing, in speaking to the differences between things.

The Readers: Hilton Als and the Queer Imagination

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Recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for theater criticism, Hilton Als often writes about the intersections of performativity, popular culture, and reflection—that is, the ways art can and cannot reflect something resembling truth. I first found my way to his writing through his book White Girls.

The Readers: Maureen Corrigan and the Fictions That Endure

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If you listen to NPR, you might vaguely recognize Maureen Corrigan’s voice. Even and deliberate, it always has an elusive quality: Corrigan’s book review segments on Fresh Air, usually ranging from five to eight minutes, are self-contained things, and every word feels carefully chosen.

The Readers: Carmen Maria Machado and Following Your Idols

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Carmen Maria Machado’s critical work reflects wide-ranging interests, and some of her most exciting writing takes place in reviews of fiction that resembles her own—literature that is speculative, scary, and queer.

The Readers: David Orr and Careers of Loneliness

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I stumbled upon David Orr’s work through his piece “Why Is a Poet’s First Collection So Important?” published in the New York Times at the beginning of February. The Facebook preview of the piece featured pictures of poets Donika Kelly and Max Ritvo below that earnest headline.

The Readers: Katy Waldman and the Uses of Wit

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For the young, left-leaning reader, there are plenty of smart literary voices online to choose from, but I often find myself gravitating toward Katy Waldman, a staff writer at Slate whose literary criticism offers some of the freshest takes on books that you are likely to find anywhere.

The Readers: Gabrielle Bellot and Writing Beyond the Binary

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Bellot seems keenly interested in the power of stories, in the way that history is a story so frequently retold that it assumes the impunity of fact, and the way that time’s linearity—in social progress and our individual experiences—is sometimes as constructed as anything else.