Critical Essays Archive

The Remarkable Staying Power of Hisaye Yamamoto’s Seventeen Syllables

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Perhaps what is most striking about Hisaye Yamamoto’s stories is how easily they could be written by a Japanese American author today, though many of them were written over fifty years ago, so focused are they on issues of race and the gendered expectations of women that still exist.

Women and Violence in Maria Dahvana Headley’s Beowulf

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Maria Dahvana Headley’s 2020 Beowulf translation works to center the lives and voices of women—a move that dramatically changes its handling of violence and trauma.

The Unmemntioable’s Exploration of the Sublime

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
In Erín Moure’s 2012 collection, she spreads the ashes of her mother, who was subject to the abject violence that took place during World War II, in a village near the Davydivka River in what is now present-day Ukraine. The word “tragedy” feels inadequate to describe these experiences.

Preparation for the Next Life’s Accumulation of Stories

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Atticus Lish’s 2014 novel is a book with many stories piled up inside it, its personalities, with their long and painful histories, bumping and crashing into each other in the present. It is a love story that rarely uses the word love.

Photography’s Eternal Returns

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Do photographs of war provide some intervention into the violence they depict? If they do not stop violence, what purpose do they serve? These two questions are at the heart of recent work by Teju Cole and older work by Susan Sontag.

Alice Hattrick’s Redefinition of Illness

Alice Hattrick’s new book redefines how we think about the body’s relationship to pain, in the process providing us with a new way to understand what it means to be chronically ill.

Generational Conflict in Jacqueline Harpman’s I Who Have Never Known Men

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Jacqueline Harpman’s 1995 novel presents a debate about what is best for a post-apocalyptic world, exploring generational conflict regarding the relevancy of norms from the old world in the new.

Impending Trouble in “Aloha Cars” and “A Distant Episode”

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
In Shifra Cornfeld’s “Aloha Cars” and Paul Bowles’s “A Distant Episode,” colonial fascination with a place and a culture leads each story’s protagonist to objectify and underestimate a place’s people, ultimately driving the protagonist to a downfall of their own making.

A Loving, Faithful Animal’s Story of a Scar

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
When viewing Josephine Rowe’s 2016 novel through the perspective of faltering chronology and layered trauma mimicking scar tissue, a fuller sense of its compassion and artistry falls into place.

Authority and Trust

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
In Hernan Diaz’s new book, narrative distance and style are wielded as signifiers of truth; as the novel progresses, the differing narrative strategies of each section create a progression of collapsing narrative distance that brings the reader closer—one feels—to the version of the story they can trust.