Critical Essays Archive

The Threshold of Memory and Return

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Confronting the manifestations of trauma in individual people and larger communities, the nonlinear form of Iman Humaydan’s 2012 novel exposes the importance of living with complexity despite its accompanying discomfort in the context of the Lebanese Civil War and beyond.

The Art of Lying

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As any reader knows, the best storytellers are the best liars. Karen Russell, master of magical realism, has time and again proved her abilities—most recently, in her new collection, a book.

Too Young to Know

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Great child narrators feel like a Oulipo trick, pulled off seamlessly. Instead of writing without certain letters, writers of child narrators blind themselves to certain truths.

Natalie Scenters-Zapico’s Treatise on Abuse

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These roles that men and women play are a mutilation. So, too, are the neocolonial systems that ask people to inhabit them.

Loss and Exile in Héctor Abad’s Oblivion

Like all exile stories, for Héctor Abad to survive, he has to avenge the tragedy of loss by hanging on to the good, even when it returns him to sadness.

The Modernism of Henry James’ Washington Square

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James Lipton, theatre director and host of Bravo’s Inside the Actor’s Studio, has a pet theory about actors and entertainers he trots out on air from time to time, a theory he bases on hundreds of interviews: children of divorce often become artists—particularly of the theatrical sort. He describes

The Women of James Salter’s Dusk and Other Stories

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Salter’s women remain ciphers throughout his collection, defined by their looks or their perceived demands on the men in their lives. But the women occupy powerful positions throughout the collection despite these spare characterizations because they allow the reader a chance to view the primary narrative from the outside.

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.

The Internal Landscape in James Wood’s Upstate

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If a critic can write through a text, in what sense, then, does the novelist write through life?

Transmigrations in Joyce and Somerville & Ross

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Perhaps in crediting those moments which, in our conscious and unconscious absorption and output, cannot seem to be erased, we come closer to that motley and cosmic source of progress whose symmetry cannot be framed.