Reading Archive

Fiction Responding to Fiction: Jamaica Kincaid and Bret Anthony Johnston

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Bret Anthony Johnston’s “Boy” is very much an homage as well as a companion piece to Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl.” The ways in which Johnston chose to mirror Kincaid’s piece show us the gender, class, and race equivalencies. Both Kincaid and Johnston are most interested in gender and the lessons

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.

The Self-Made Heir

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Most Americans identify as “middle class,” though this is a reflection of mentality more than income. Economists define “middle income” households as those with incomes between 66% and 200% of the median household income. This means an annual income range of roughly $24,000 and $73,000 for one person. As

The Space Where God Used to Be

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To say that Patricia Lockwood is a lapsed Catholic doesn’t begin to cover it. The poet and author of the memoir Priestdaddy is the daughter of a Catholic priest, either the beneficiary or the victim of a loophole.

In Praise of Unlikeable Characters

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Doris Lessing’s Martha Quest begins, marvelously, with one of the best depictions of adolescent malaise I’ve ever read: the fifteen-year-old title character languishing on her porch in silent, miserable judgment (in “spasms of resentment”) while her mother knits, and gossips vacuously with a neighbor.

Reading Backwards

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Finally recognizing this pattern has led me to an unconventional idea: we should teach literary survey courses backwards. And those of us who are no longer in lit classes (or who have steered clear of them altogether) should read that way ourselves.

Virtue and Liberation: The Literary Battle for the Mind of the American Mill Girl

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Work, and the psychological impacts of work, are rarely represented in fiction, even though America has a rich literary history of labor narratives, particularly in the case of female writers, dating as far back as the mid-nineteenth century.

Obsessive Tactics in Patty Yumi Cottrell’s Sorry to Disrupt the Peace

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In Patty Yumi Cottrell's novel Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, the narrator Helen Moran investigates her adopted brother's suicide, an effort complicated by Helen's own profound alienation. Relentlessly interior, discursive and associative, the novel reads as the direct outcome of Helen's grief, an inner crisis she attempts to control

Stories Without Women

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Men Without Women is a familiar, easily identifiable, and oddly comforting book for the Murakami reader, privileging the emotional landscape of lonely Japanese men through scaffolding characterization, personal idiosyncrasy, and monkey-wrench narratives.

Do Readers Dream of Electric Futures?

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Why has Philip K. Dick, author of the novella Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, continued to be read through the decades? Why has he continued to be a touchstone—with his stories and novels consistently being turned into films?