Tag Archives: Books

A lesson from the master

What I’ve learned from twenty-nine years of reading Henry James is the cultivation of a private life, an interiority deepened by contact with our fellow men. The process is circular: the private life helps us understand friends and strangers. “I … Continue reading

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Ideas about thoughts: John Ashbery — RIP

Fuming, the late Butler Waugh blamed himself for asking his undergraduate writing composition students to bring favorite poems to class. Some brought song lyrics, which he could accept; others brought Hallmark verse, which he could not. “It’s probably too much … Continue reading

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‘The obligation due to every thing/That’s smaller than the universe’

A master at writing long narrative poems in which Dante and Renaissance art commingle with personal meditations (Adam Kirsch called them tableaux vivants), Gjertrud Schnackenberg needs to be read slowly and in book form, particularly 1992’s A Gilded Lapse of … Continue reading

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Responses to violence

Julia Azari reviews the history of presidential responses to acts of violence on black citizens: In 1906, for example, a group of African-American soldiers in Brownsville, Texas, was accused of shooting multiple people. They were acquitted by a court and … Continue reading

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‘And the boys’

I’d no idea John Podhoretz was going to play literary critic and re-post Esquire‘s list of eighty books every person should read chosen by three women, published in January 2015. Toni Morrison’s Sula made the list — a novel I … Continue reading

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‘In search of anything usable left behind…’

Before his death in 2015, Philip Levine left a number of poems awaiting collection. Edward Hirsch edited and assembled The Last Shift, which contains some of the former poet laureate’s most poignant work, and without the flatness that occasionally marred … Continue reading

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A slave empire in a nation, and a colony in a nation

Chris Hayes – A Colony in a Nation Last time out the MSNBC host of All In wrote what amounted to an elegant master’s thesis elongated into unforgiving book form. His second book uses the metaphor of the Colony versus … Continue reading

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The changing face of libraries

Readers know I revere libraries. My mother got my first library card when I turned six. I’d routinely break the six-item checkout limit with dinosaur books in second grade and Judy Blume in sixth. But although I mourn the deathly … Continue reading

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Ulysses and the danger of expecting “transformative” art

Trying to redress mistaken approaches to Ulysses, this article still gets it wrong: The big question Birmingham’s book raises without precisely answering is whether Ulysses remains dangerous, now that the sexual mores and political anxieties of the 20s and 30s … Continue reading

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The duties of friendship

Kate Shellnutt’s account of the difficulty of maintaining friends after thirty has occasioned some discussion on my social media feeds. The following passages struck me: I’m not sure who I’m destined to become in the years ahead. Turning 30 doesn’t … Continue reading

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‘And the woman calling…”

I’ve returned to Thomas Hardy in the last three weeks, rereading The Woodlanders, finishing Claire Milgate’ss excellent biography, and thumbing through my well-worn copy of his Selected Poems. I love “The Voice” best, as poignant an example of Hardy’s idiosyncratic … Continue reading

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The satisfaction of aloneness

The immersive blandness of a Target on the Sunday morning of a long weekend – my church. The sheer acreage of the average store is enough to stagger me, although so long as I can find the frozen blueberries and a … Continue reading

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