Critical Essays Archive

A Loving, Faithful Animal’s Story of a Scar

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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

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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.

Julie Otsuka’s Layered Points of View

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Julie Otsuka’s new novel is divided into five chapters, three written in the first-person plural perspective and two in the second-person; the novel examines dementia, familial relationships, and the friction between the collective and the individual, using the shifts in point-of-view to marry form to content.

The Climate Narrative within This Is How You Lose the Time War

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Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s 2019 novel is primarily a love story, but through a series of metaphors and associations, it also reveals itself to be a veiled climate novel, not only fictionalizing the climate crisis but perhaps also suggesting a solution to it.

Ariel Francisco’s Poetry as Documentation

Governments may want people to provide documentation proving that they are, in fact, people, but poets provide documentation for the people. It is the poet’s job to document the moments that would otherwise be lost—to document moments for the people.

W. S. Merwin’s Ancestral Memory in Victoria Chang’s The Trees Witness Everything

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Almost every poem in Victoria Chang’s new collection gets its title from a W. S. Merwin poem of the same name. Both poets seem to believe in the idea that history and life are really just ongoing cycles designed to propel us forward, just as they also keep us

Climate Resignation in Inter Ice Age 4

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A forgotten classic in the realm of climate fiction, Kōbō Abe’s 1958 sci-fi thriller represents a telling effort in assessing why so many of us feel resigned to our climate fate—and why it is fundamentally difficult to understand the magnitude of the problem that lies before us.

The Real and the Unreal in Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century

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The interplay of fantasy and reality in Kim Fu’s stories represents a yearning, through fantasies, technologies, and dreams, for the divine.

The Parasitism of Memory in Burnt Sugar

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Avni Doshi’s Booker shortlisted 2019 novel wonders if, since our minds can distort our memories into unrecognizable things and still have us believe them as truth, it is apt to say they overtake us, a sort of parasitic recall designed to humor us through our lives.

Urban Tumbleweed’s Interrogation of the “Natural” World

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In calling attention to her own unknowability, Harryette Mullen deconstructs preconceived notions about the delimited spaces of urban/rural, Black/white dichotomies, while enlarging the boundaries for Black writing, Black experience, and Black authority.