Author Archive

The Ethics of Delight

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We could try to protect ourselves at this time from dread, despair, and our own fury; or, like Ross Gay, we could seek delight, and find through it a doorway into engagement in the world, painful as it might be.

On the Murmuring of Books and the Abyss

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A library is not just a building, nor can it keep books entirely sealed off from the rest of the world—a library is also a network of books speaking of books, “as if they spoke among themselves.”

Sorrow and Persuasion

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The quiet, steadfast heroine of Jane Austen’s final novel, Anne Elliot, has lived a life of much sorrow. After my mother’s death, the melancholy of her character offered me a safe way to experience the sorrow and loneliness that I otherwise kept at bay.

The Art of Dissent in Abigail

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Magda Szabó’s 1970 novel is an unusual coming-of-age story—the willful heroine finds her place in society not by learning to comply with its demands, but by learning the art of dissent.

Facing the Jackpot with William Gibson

As we move toward an inevitable-seeming apocalypse, Rachael Nevins turns to three of Gibson’s novels, hoping to assuage her fear and sort through her disorientation.

Truth and Lies in Elena Ferrante’s Incidental Inventions

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Over the course of Ferrante’s new essay collection, her commentary on the contingencies of telling both truth and lies shines new light on the relationship between narrative and the frightening reality she has elsewhere called the "frantumaglia."

The Unconventional Heroine

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Though Catherine Morland may be neither Austen’s cleverest nor her wisest heroine, the story of how her naiveté is transformed to discernment is no less compelling, showing that understanding others takes a combination of good faith and imagination, tempered by experience.

Don Quixote or the Dangers of Reading Badly

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Again and again the story of Don Quixote shows that idealism untethered from reality leads to nothing but real harm, and I find in it a cautionary tale for our age, in which misinformation and conspiracy theories proliferate.