Julian Barnes’s 1989 novel A History of the World in 10½ Chapters includes an essayistic meditation on love in which he brilliantly considers the meanings and ramifications of history and our tendency to turn life into a narrative:
The history of the world? . . .
Recent racial violence in the United States and abroad makes poetry books that take up social justice ever more urgent. Books with explicit political content often eschew the lyrical in favor of “documentary” materials, while others manage to twine them. In seeking ways to incorporate complex cultural/social information, some poets have developed hybrid forms, . . . Read more
In Lighting the Shadow, Rachel Eliza Griffiths’ third collection, the poet sings a song of nonself. Varied sources—from news, visual art, poetry, and family—generate the current along which moves the speaker’s polymorphous permeable body electric, enacting her intention to “turn to every shadow I’ve ever been, stare at them until they form another / woman . . . . Read more
We are enamored with the new. We exalt the original, the innovative, the experimental. See the proliferation of lists declaring the literary world’s next protégés: Muzzle Magazine’s “30 under 30”; Buzzfeed’s “20 under 40 Debut Writers You Need to Be Reading”; the New Yorker’s “20 under 40.” There is an ethic of disposability built into this fetish: what is new cannot endure in newness. . . . Read more
Is it possible to know whether the work we do makes any difference or whether the tasks and actions with which we fill our hours are meaningful? At my job I frequently employ diagrams called logic models—tools that can be used to plan, design, and evaluate strategies and projects. Typically represented through a series of boxes and arrows, . . . Read more
Fashion changes, but style remains.
Of course, when we think of fashion we think of style. However, I am not sure, in spite of the recent efforts of museums and a handful of critics, how many of us—no matter how educated, . . . Read more
Ada Limón’s poetry recognizes the ways shifting landscapes throw order into chaos. In Bright Dead Things, her fourth collection, the mutable settings—from New York to Kentucky to California—serve to underscore the speaker’s turbulent feelings of loss. Limón’s speaker ties her self-conception to landscape. She says, “This land and I are rewilding” and “Now, . . . Read more
Susan Howe’s The Quarry includes ten previously uncollected essays, beginning with the most recently written “Vagrancies in the Park,” a gracious tribute to her favorite twentieth-century poet, Wallace Stevens. Covering diverse topics, The Quarry also includes a discussion of Hope Atherton’s captivity narrative and an extended contemplation of iconoclastic filmmaker Chris Marker’s documentaries, . . . Read more
There are a host of poetry collections that challenge that old adage—don’t judge a book by its cover: Claudia Rankine’s Citizen (2014), Bhanu Kapil’s Ban en Banlieue (2015), and Nate Marshall’s Wild Hundreds (2015) are but a few recent releases that are as gorgeous as objects as they are powerful in language. . . . Read more
In a telling scene from the opening story of Kirstin Valdez Quade’s Night at the Fiestas, a young woman corrects her aunt for calling her by her given name. “Norma,” the character until this moment known as Nemecia, says, “My name is Norma.” Nemecia is at the center of the story: a figure at once sensual and revolting. . . . Read more