Author Archive

Joanna Rakoff’s My Salinger Year

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What is it about being in your early twenties that makes the world seem so overwhelmingly crowded and yet so desperately lonely all at once? There’s something bewitching about it, too, and melancholy.

To Remember is Also to Lose: Marguerite Duras’ The Lover

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On the very first page of her most famous and autobiographical novel, The Lover, Marguerite Duras seems to capture in one line the most powerful aspect of the book: “Very early in my life, it was too late.”

The Language From the Far Places: Experiences of Mental Illness in Literature

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How can one adequately capture experiences that very often undo language itself, that are often so profoundly isolating precisely because they defy our common speech, our tested vocabularies and definitions of human experience? How do we find the right words to map that place?

On the Refreshing Awfulness of Elaine Dundy’s Protagonist in The Old Man and Me

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Having grown up feeling starved for complex female antiheroes in fiction, women I could actually fully relate to without having to overhaul my personality, morality, or entire appearance, the recent influx of interesting, complex female characters in popular culture has been revelatory.

Art and Sustenance

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Learning from artists, how to write, to draw, to see, taught me of bounty. Their insistence, their calling, always, attention to the smallest things, taught me the most precious kind of survival: the abiding joy and knowledge that there is always something.

A Poem to Face the End of the World: Adam Zagajewski’s “To Go to Lvov”

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Adam Zagajewski's "To Go to Lvov" is an elegy for a world, a family, a time, that will never return, but is chronicled with such fevered longing, such attentive encapsulation, that it somehow lives on.

Essence and Absolute: The Storytelling Power of Perfume

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When you start selling perfumes, you are in the business of selling stories. You must learn to be adept in all the tools a writer needs to do their work well. Scent is the most primal sense, the surest trigger of memory, of instinct.

Netflix’s ANNE Bridges the Divide Between Us and Our Childhood Dreams

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The ways in which Anne, the mercurial, earnest girl at the center of the story lived, learned, grew, and blundered her way through life resonated with me, a perennial outsider and dreamer, wounded by things that, like Anne’s cruel treatment at the hands of the Hammonds and the orphanage

Is it Time for a Response to Lolita?

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If that reality was so vital to Nabokov, if its silenced heart is what makes the novel so haunting, then there is space, surely, surely, for the real, breathing girl to speak properly.

Ethnographic Writing and Poetic Discipline

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One of the most important parts of my education, both as a writer and a human being, has been studying anthropology--and in particular, learning to write ethnographically.