Critical Essays Archive

Authorship and Betrayal in To Write As If Already Dead

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Given its fragmented structure, intertextuality, quotations from and reflections on correspondences, and inclusion of the narrative of a pregnancy, Kate Zambreno’s newest book feels like a “library of the mind,” encompassing texts on reading, writing, authorship, friendship, betrayal, the body, birth, and death.

Fox & I and the Power of Unusual Friendships

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Catherine Raven’s friendship with a fox that wanders onto her property highlights the challenges she’s struggled with for years—an urge to isolate in a world that celebrates civilization, a belief in magic in a world of scientific inquiry, and a strong intuition that what is most common isn’t necessarily

Cruelty’s Resonant Line

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Ai’s complex depictions, in her 1970 collection of poetry, of contradictory emotions, desperation, character triangles, and speakers driven to and past the brink of perpetrating harm work because she employs minimalism in her poetic devices, including heavy use of the end-stopped line.

This Mournable Body’s Unrelenting “You”

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What has been overlooked in analysis of Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Booker Prize nominated novel is her use of the second-person perspective in combination with the simple present tense—creating a readerly experience of selfhood and time that does more than the second-person can alone.

The Uncategorizable Filthy Animals

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Brandon Taylor’s second book and first story collection, coming in quick succession to his Booker Prize-shortlisted novel, reads like a landmark of millennial fiction, revealing an even clearer picture of the expansiveness of Taylor’s vision than his rigorously structured debut.

The Revision of Stories in Long Division

In revising his debut novel, about Black teenagers who time travel to see their family, Laymon gets to relive the experience of creating and being in his novel, in a world he created to and for his peoples.

The Entanglement of Church and Family in Revival Season

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Monica West's debut novel exposes the inevitable risks and losses that come along with disentanglement from family and church structures. Her protagonist's strength, coming-into-power, and voice are compelling, but they are costly.

The Exploration of Memory in Things Remembered and Things Forgotten

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While the objectivity of memory—and even its actual substance—is consistently brought into question in Kyoko Nakajima’s stories, what remains clear are the emotions attached to the act of remembering and the way these emotions meaningfully link individuals or objects across time.

Sacredness in the In-Between

Sergio Troncoso has chosen to situate his latest anthology in an in-between place. Through fiction, poetry, and nonfiction by Mexican American authors, it explores families living along the U.S.-Mexico border and how being in the middle of worlds impacts their lives.

States of Refusal in How to Do Nothing and Housekeeping

“Fourteen years ago I left my job at a publicly traded company and began life as a freelancer. In all these years I have been trying to get to what Jenny Odell calls the ‘third space,’ an arena of both participation in and resistance to society.”