Essays In Criticism

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I love this piece because it offers an instance and vision of criticism as an inspired art, not simply an appraisal or a value judgment.

It takes a book as its occasion, but its discussion of what that book does (or doesn’t do) ventures into such exquisitely soulful territory—thinking about identity, intimacy, and marginalized voices—that I couldn’t possibly do it justice here.

**Two bonus picks from my own publication: “Prime of Life: The Story of My 20s, as Told in Amazon Purchases,” by Lacey Donohue, on Gawker (“a grimly hilarious piece of experimental memoir”) and “The Player Whose Bell Stayed Rung,” by Dave Mc Kenna for Deadspin (“in all the coverage of the NFL and concussions, I don’t think anything else quite fused of the joys and the horrors of football”). Mlotek’s essay explores how she has made a transition from merely a beloved writer to an easy shorthand for a certain type of literary importance. But Kiese Laymon’s essay helped me better understand a few things I’m pretty ignorant about—the appeal of football and the lived experience of racism in the south—in expansive detail.

It’s highly personal but also universal and relevant to contentious issues of the moment, which means it’s hitting on all levels that a great essay should.

In light of that fact—and it is a fact; I have been conscious ever since childhood that one day I’d have to sacrifice autonomy for family or the other way around—the messages stuffed down women’s throats seem almost callously optimistic. Her writing has appeared in A Public Space, Mc Sweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, West Branch, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, The New York Times Book Review, and Bookforum, among many others.

The way Claudia Rankine writes about race so plainly and with such profundity and grace overwhelms me.Wood’s magisterial style surpasses that of almost anything he might pick up to review.And yet he only seems to add to one’s admiration of a book even as he dismantles and demystifies it.I didn’t agree with all of Crispin’s points but damn, she made me think about writing as a woman, the expectations we face and the challenges of overcoming those expectations.tweets, but it is something else entirely: “while many might think of her career as being a person who appears on television, she is rather a cookbook writer,” Sicha writes, and what follows is a chatty-seeming but ruthless exercise in close reading of text and utterance that goes thousands of miles away from the kitchen and countless dark fathoms below the surface of aspirational prosperity and comfort, into the cold lightless gears of power. “Bullying,” Graeber writes, “creates a moral drama in which the manner of the victim’s reaction to an act of aggression can be used as retrospective justification for the original act of aggression itself.” His essay mostly considers the relationship between the logic of the schoolyard and the logic of military conflict, but the clarity of that central concept—reaction as justification for the action that provoked it—read also as a precise accounting of the theatrics of brutality and backlash that would occur in Paris and beyond after the essay was published.She’s talking about the persistent idea that a woman’s life can be morally dictated, and I’ve never been one for slogans, but I would readily get that sentence tattooed.What this dictation comes down to is biology, more or less, and what Solnit expresses with her gorgeously discreet sense of logic here is that there is simply no great way to get around the fact that (1) female bodies are seen as service objects and (2) female lives are seen as revolving around childbirth (which is of course the greatest bodily service of all).So many people read and loved this beautiful piece by Saunders but I’m going to talk about it here because (dammit! It made my pulse race with the sheer fervor and eloquence and non-photoshopped specificity of its appreciation—its appreciation for teachers, for literature, for teaching.It offers an account of how writing happens across the course of a lifetime—in between the daily realities of kids and jobs (even pharmaceutical company jobs)—and how teachers inspire us to inhabit our best selves, or at least catch sight of what those selves might look like.Her essay, “The Condition of Black Life Is One of Mourning,” was a painful but necessary read.Rankine was clear eyed and unwavering as she outlined the constancy of mourning in black life and reinforced the importance of Black Lives Matter.

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