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Reading Archive

The Problem with Writing Autism as Problem

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To try to capture the zeitgeist of autism in America right now is to sip water from a fire hose. It can’t be done. The diagnosis is as contentious as it is, increasingly, commonplace, claimed as everything from epidemic to evolution. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at

The Limits and Freedoms of Literary Regionalism: Silence and the Self in Joan Didion’s Southern California Memoir

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Joan Didion's 1979 book of essays The White Album is not only a road trip through the gridded streets and indecisive canyons of Los Angeles County, but also a meditation on Southern California as a setting for self-discovery.

Chris Pratt, Blue-Collar Poetry, and the Relatability Problem

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As Chris Pratt got dragged across the internet, I thought about poet friends who have told me they don’t see their own “average, blue-collar” stories reflected in what gets published. For many reasons, this is hard for me to believe.

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

The Facts of Life: Poems and Real Deaths

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Lately, I keep running across poems in collections and in literary journals that use facts or trivia as part of, and sometimes the heart of, their piece. What place does the language of fact, of historical tidbits and pop culture trivia have within the language of poetry?

The Food-Centered Story: The many faces of hunger

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Ten years ago Random House published a wonderful anthology of food writing, Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink. All essays, articles, and fiction featured in the book had earlier appeared in The New Yorker. I bought the book a couple of years after its publication

Wanda Coleman, Colin Kaepernick, and The Refusal to Prioritize Patriotism Over Blackness

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The gravitational pull of reading any of Wanda Coleman's work is as elusive as it is startlingly raw and cathartic—the unofficial poet laureate of Los Angeles has always teetered between nuance and nihilism, between and distraction and destruction.

The Familiarity—and Unfamiliarity—of William Gibson’s Neuromancer

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The brilliance of Neuromancer and what won it every literary award available—the Nebula, the Philip K. Dick and the Hugo—is its breakneck storytelling, which combines high technology, a classic tale of corporate greed, war, revenge, and politics with some dazzling writing.

On Topophilia and a Complicated Love of Jim Harrison’s Fiction

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Topophilia, coined by W.H. Auden in 1947, means the love of place; a straightforward word to describe thoughts and feelings I have with regularity.

Shirley Jackson, Madeleine L’Engle, and Motherhood

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I read much of Shirley Jackson’s memoir of raising four children, Life Among the Savages (1952), on a weekend when I was caring for three children. For a brief stretch—maybe five pages—we achieved a fragile equilibrium and they were all attached to me as I read.