Reviews

on Counternarratives by John Keene

on Counternarratives by John Keene

In 1995, thirty-year-old John Keene published his first book, the autobiographical novel Annotations. With its sentence fragments and snaking syntax, the book reads like a bildungsroman carved into pieces. The protagonist, an African American youth growing up in St. Louis during the Seventies and Eighties, . . .

Read more
on The Ocean, the Bird and the Scholar by Helen Vendler

on The Ocean, the Bird and the Scholar by Helen Vendler

The Ocean, the Bird and the Scholar brings together twenty-seven essays, reviews, and occasional lectures, written over the past twenty years by the renowned poetry scholar Helen Vendler, the best known “close reader” of lyric poetry today. Almost all of the chapters focus on modern and contemporary American, . . .

Read more
on Bark: Stories by Lorrie Moore

on Bark: Stories by Lorrie Moore

I discovered Lorrie Moore in the University of Georgia infirmary in 1989—that is, I found her short story “You’re Ugly, Too” in the pages of the New Yorker I was reading in the waiting room. The story made me forget the sinus infection that brought me there, and made me laugh, . . .

Read more
Da Capo al Coda

Da Capo al Coda

From the beginning, I knew there could be trouble: a box of cheeky new books on my doorstep, all dressed in their shiny covers, waiting to be read. All week I had been ranting about the contemporary world—its lack of tradition, its misuse of grammar, its insidious technologies. One television ad talked about the motel’s recent “refresh.” I was certain those brash new books would be full of such travesties, . . .

Read more
on The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

on The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Leslie Jamison puts her personal anguish on display in her debut book of essays, The Empathy Exams. She doesn’t shy away from the suffering of others, either. This focus on pain may be the collection’s most obvious feature, but it doesn’t strike me as its most important. As Jamison says of herself, . . .

Read more
on Annotated Glass by Alyse Knorr

on Annotated Glass by Alyse Knorr

This striking first collection explores love and loss through a series of linked poems that dramatizes the experiences of a young woman named Alice. The name of the heroine of Annotated Glass echoes the author’s name in a generative misspeaking that is one of the book’s dominant modes of pleasure and propulsion. . . .

Read more
When the River Is Ice

When the River Is Ice

It’s 2014, the 100th anniversary of William Stafford’s birth, and people all over the country are celebrating his life and work. Why Stafford, I wonder, when I don’t remember so much interest in 100th anniversaries for Theodore Roethke, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman? In three years, will there be this resurgence of interest in Robert Lowell? . . .

Read more