Literary Criticism

RECENT REVIEWS

Racecraft: Stories of Racial Passing

Racecraft: Stories of Racial Passing

THE VERY NOTION of racial “passing” implies a test. Those who believed clear racial categorization was possible might test for race by measuring physical traits to indicate “blood purity”: sli...

On Excess: Susan Sontag’s Born-Digital Archive

On Excess: Susan Sontag’s Born-Digital Archive

1. SUSAN SONTAG'S ESSAY “Against Interpretation” is best known for its concluding pocket-sized maxim: “In place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art.” The setup for that declaration is...

Let Me Remind You

Let Me Remind You

“HAVE YOU read Salinger? Very likely you have,” Joanna Rakoff writes toward the end of her memoir My Salinger Year. Everyone has read Salinger — except for Rakoff, who picked up his books for th...

After the Great American Novel

After the Great American Novel

WHAT DO ENGLISH PROFESSORS do with literature? When English departments were first formed in the US at the end of the 19th century, the fashionable professor did “scholarship.” Scholarship’s g...

Reaching In

Reaching In

MY TRAVELS with Lynne Sharon Schwartz began with her 2009 memoir Not Now, Voyager. Against her backdrop of exotic destinations, I enjoyed sharing concerns about an inability to cope with mundane chall...

He Worked at the Writer’s Trade

He Worked at the Writer’s Trade

I SUPPOSE it’s now obligatory in a review of a collection of letters to comment wistfully on how quaintly superseded this is, on how we will never again have relationships that exist outside of the ...

The Young Man and the Sea

The Young Man and the Sea

JUSTIN HOCKING’S DEBUT memoir, The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld, could have been about a young man who was robbed at gunpoint, losing the laptop that contained his novel (which he hadn’t ba...

Serial Reader

Serial Reader

I HAD TO CHUCKLE when I approached the end of Threepenny Review editor Wendy Lesser’s latest meditation on reading and came across an odd admission from the author: “There are many times when I...

All Too Human: On Kurt Vonnegut’s Legacy

All Too Human: On Kurt Vonnegut’s Legacy

KURT VONNEGUT first exploded into the nation’s consciousness in 1969 with the publication of Slaughterhouse-Five. The novel’s distinctive and ethical voice resonated with young Americans, and his ...

Applied Enlightenment

Applied Enlightenment

IN THE SUMMER of 2006, I took a job at an academic press in central Pennsylvania. Among my primary tasks: calling professors to inform them that their books were out of print, sending rejections to sc...

Forms of Cosmopolitanism

Forms of Cosmopolitanism

image: David Hockney’s “Cavafy in Alexandria” THE GREEK POET YANNIS RITSOS, in his Twelve Poems for Cavafy (1963), wrote of the Greek Diaspora poet Constantine P. Cavafy: “Many claimed him, ...