Critical Essays Archive

A Poem to Face the End of the World: Adam Zagajewski’s “To Go to Lvov”

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Adam Zagajewski's "To Go to Lvov" is an elegy for a world, a family, a time, that will never return, but is chronicled with such fevered longing, such attentive encapsulation, that it somehow lives on.

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?

Examining Our American Disillusion With Alberto Fuguet

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I’ve been thinking too much about reality entertainment lately. It was inevitable that I would find myself reading Alberto Fuguet’s The Movies of My Life this summer, and I’ve been wondering: how does a country cope with disillusion? Or rather, how does a person deal with its dissolution?

The Varying Feelings of Jesus’ Son

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Perhaps, in connecting the song’s teachings of drug struggles from the ’60s with those of the book and films of the ’90s, both similarities and differences across these platforms can provide intake on why the opioid epidemic either comes in waves, or never truly leaves.

What Is a Story Before It Becomes Words?: Lynda Barry’s What It Is

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What It Is is expressionistic and difficult. Before the techniques are imparted (and they are, eventually) Lynda Barry spends more than one hundred pages blending comic panels, short passages of autobiography, and gorgeous, bizarre full page collages that explore the fundamentals of craft and creativity.

Attention Span Training for Book Lovers

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The internet giveth and it taketh away. What it gives readers is legion. What the internet contributes to taking away, however, is the ability to concentrate.

On Being Under the Gun

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There is something about pressure that fascinates me. I never could stand to stick a pin into a balloon, but I would rub one against my head to make my hair stand on end and, in the slow, painstaking process, break the sack of air against my skull.

Andrei Codrescu’s New Orleans

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For old-school southern writers, it seems, having roots in the South—being born there—is a key reason they’re classified as “southern writers.” Thinking of contemporary writers like Codrescu as “southern” is more complex. Though often intensely regional, movement is a central concern of his essays and poems.

On Music History, Street Walking, and Energy Building

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The surrounding parts of Greenwich Village, with its cafes and bookstores and instrument stores and doughnut shops and all things to and from those sorts, brings to one a brevity of air when they can connect who else has been there before.

Poetry, Science, Politics, and Birds

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In watching birds, I understand Adrienne Rich’s idea of triangulation through poetry, science, and politics. Someone thousands of miles across the globe must also value, give voice to, and protect the homes of my most familiar backyard birds.