Critical Essays Archive

Form, Sound, and Thought in Supply Chain

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The activity of thinking, with its accidental sparkings and discursive connections, propels Pimone Triplett through the sonically dense occasional poems that make up her 2017 collection, in which she repurposes some of poetry’s perhaps more conservative elements—form and tradition—to radically reoriented ends.

The Tragedy of Lady Macbeth

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Lady Macbeth’s tragedy is the tragedy of being a woman. What more powerful way to show this than through a difficult woman to like?

Too Much Life

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In Kevin Scott Magruder’s debut novel, humanity faces a temptation as old as Greek mythology: the gift of immortality. A new experimental drug, Amaran, has been released that halts the aging process and cell deterioration. This gift, however, comes with some strings.

The Tale of Genji, Suspended Between East and West

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We in the English-speaking world are used to the idea that we apprehend Genji only dimly through translation, as if through a scrim, watching shadows. So why then have two Japanese sisters, both well-known poets, spent years retranslating an Edwardian English translation of the novel back into Japanese?

Language and Fronteras in Signs Preceding the End of the World

In Yuri Herrera’s 2009 novel, borders can be impenetrable surfaces, and language can open doors that can’t so easily be locked back.

The Layers of Skylark

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Dezső Kosztolányi’s 1924 novel makes a point of subverting expectations; in it, actions as outwardly mundane as packing, eating, and walking become fertile ground to investigate the discrepancy between how things look and what they are.

Oksana, Behave! and Olive, Again

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New novels by Maria Kuznetsova and Elizabeth Strout, written in the form of chapter-length stories, give us the opportunity to see a great span of a life and to focus in on the moments that matter.

Svetlana Alexievich’s Verbatim Theater

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In her exploration of the Chernobyl disaster, Svetlana Alexievich dramatizes history—as she insists, we can only understand events of this magnitude by recasting them on a human scale.

The Many Disappearances in Run Me to Earth

In Paul Yoon’s new novel, we become witnesses to the many disappearances that punctuate war-torn lives: of neighbors, memories, motorcycles, colonizers, baskets, friends, body parts, names. Some of these disappearances, however, like new continents emerging from volcanic eruptions, lay the ground for Yoon’s characters’ destinies.

Reading Annihilation

The first book in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy does not balk at the sheer futility of humanity in the face of natural forces, but it doesn’t wholly destroy all who enter it, either. Instead, it returns readers to the sublime aspect of nature—the understanding that it can be