Reviews

Stephanie Danler is from California. And like much of one dominant image of the state, her words are wet-haired, sandy, and moody beyond even her own sense of belief. After a decade away, spent out East, she returned to California at thirty-one. She had strayed far, to Kenyon College and then on to New York […]

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October 13, 2020
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At first, I didn’t recognize the girl’s elongated arm. The photo is cropped at the shoulder, and there is no visible face. But when I read the poem on the opposing page, I realized this was the outstretched arm of Phan Thi Kim Phúc, the naked, screaming, Vietnamese girl from an iconic photo that in […]

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September 22, 2020
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Who should tell the stories of people suffering under repressive political regimes such as the United States today? This may be one of the most fiercely debated questions of twenty-first-century literature. Defacing the Monument, Susan Briante’s newest book, which is part lyric essay, part criticism, part poetry—and, most surprisingly, part workbook—thinks through possible answers to […]

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From the Fall 2020 Issue

In her ground-breaking, best-selling book Writing a Woman’s Life (1988), feminist Carolyn G. Heilbrun describes four ways to write a woman’s life: autobiography, fiction, biography, and an unnamed way in which “the woman may write her own life in advance of living it, unconsciously, and without recognizing or naming the process.” Bringing insights from feminist […]

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From the Fall 2020 Issue

Throughout his life’s work, John Koethe has elegized a romantic sense of meaning, that is, an illusory if highly desirous union with the larger universe. As we see throughout Walking Backwards, a collection spanning fifty years, his poems often alternate between a highly textured, near-nostalgic portrait of himself as a young man when he enjoyed […]

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From the Fall 2020 Issue

The title of poet Marcelo Hernandez Castillo’s memoir about intergenerational migration derives from mythical insects that are said to inhabit the mountains of Mexico, tiny creatures with incandescent bodies and the faces of children. In Castillo’s telling, los Niños de la Tierra crawl across the rocky terrain, always gazing skyward; if a human were to […]

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From the Summer 2020 Issue

Jay Wright’s new collection, The Prime Anniversary, begins with a wedding song for the lost. Borrowing from the Sapphic fragment ὦ καλή, ὦ χαρίεσσα (“o beautiful, o graceful”), its epigraph apostrophizes absence and begins a ceremony whose actors wait in the wings. Through the course of the work, the object of address becomes a variable […]

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From the Summer 2020 Issue

Andrew Zawacki’s latest poetry collection, Unsun, refracts recurring interests in sunlight and perception as a way of making visible our slow-going collective disaster. The nature of this disaster is manifold: the disaster of parenting in the midst of climate collapse; the disaster of human imagination—how our tools and machinery (both technical and philosophical) have exquisitely […]

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From the Summer 2020 Issue

Jeanette Winterson’s new novel, Frankissstein, is a lively homage to the biotechnological future first made thinkable in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It is one in a long series of remakes and commentaries that equate “Frankenstein” with biotechnological developments such as cloning, AI, GMO, and sex-change surgery, at times to marvel at human ingenuity, more often to […]

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From the Summer 2020 Issue

When characterizing the fiction of Ivan Turgenev in a review of Constance Garnett’s translation of The Two Friends and Other Stories for The Times Literary Supplement in December 1921, Virginia Woolf—as consummate a critic as she was a novelist—describes a scene in which people sit around “talking gently, sadly, charmingly,” but notes that Turgenev provides […]

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From the Summer 2020 Issue

Jesse Ball’s 2018 novel Census at first seems determined to use the title’s subject—an official count of the citizens throughout an unnamed land—as mere background. Ball’s nameless narrator works as a census taker, but feels little urgency about the task, approaching it half-heartedly, without the passion we might expect from the protagonist of a dystopian […]

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From the Spring 2020 Issue

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