Category Archives: Personae

Happy Birthday, Theodore Roosevelt

Today is Dylan Thomas’s birthday, and Sylvia Plath’s, and Zadie Smith’s… the book blogosphere is practically melting from all those virtual candles. Happy birthday to those literary lights, and thanks for all the good writing. But Theodore Roosevelt was also born on this day, 156 years ago: police commissioner, governor, president, soldier, naturalist/hunter, explorer, one […]

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Happy Birthday, Jane Gardam!

Happy birthday to Jane Gardam, born in North Yorkshire in 1928, and still going strong at age 86. I’ve left plenty of traces of my own Gardam fandom, with a piece in Bloom and a note in Open Letters Monthly’s Year in Reading for 2013. But for years she felt a bit like a secret-handshake […]

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The Iron Will of Hesh Kestin, at Bloom

Just over three years ago, I reviewed what would prove to be one of my favorite books read in 2011. Hesh Kestin’s The Iron Will of Shoeshine Cats, aside from having one of the best titles of the decade, was a seriously fun hard-boiled noir coming of age tale set in 1963, featuring the Jewish […]

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Poetry Just-a-Little-Past Friday: Stephen Burt at Bookslut

I don’t pretend to know much about poetry criticism… at least not to the degree that I pretend to know all sorts of things about prose criticism. But I do like reading it, even if a lot of what’s being proposed probably sails right over my head. Which is why I like reading Stephen Burt—aside […]

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An Evening with William Gaddis

Readers and fans of William Gaddis, a writer notoriously protective of his privacy during his lifetime, have been waiting years to read his correspondence. A number of pieces were collected in Conjunctions this past fall, and finally next month Dalkey Archive Press will publish The Letters of William Gaddis, edited by Steven Moore with an […]

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On Deborah Eisenberg at Bloom

With all due apologies for the end-of-semester posting paucity—one more week and we should be back on a somewhat more regular schedule—I have a new piece up at Bloom. Being the site’s Senior Writer holds all sorts of fine perks: a corner office, expense-account lunches, glamour, prestige… well, OK. Maybe not. But I can bring […]

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It Ain’t Oeuvre ’Til It’s Oeuvre: Elmore Leonard Wins National Book Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Last month I commended the PEN American Center for awarding its Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction to E.L. Doctorow. Often it seems like that kind of recognition celebrates an author’s longevity, but not necessarily a consistent body of work. It’s not that writers don’t deserve props for sticking it out and keeping […]

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Alison Bechdel: My BFF in the NYT

Everybody has a secret creative BFF, right? Someone whose writing or art you adore, who loves the same things you love, whose aesthetic influences are just the same as yours. Which is not exactly the same as being a fan. And writing a fan letter—almost always a good thing to do when someone inspires or […]

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Laura Ingalls Wilder’s First Draft

2012 is shaping up to be a big year for all of my childhood obsessions. The Lost Colony may have been found! We may know what happened to Amelia Earhart! And now it appears that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s original autobiography, “Pioneer Girl,” may at long last be published. (If C. Thomas Howell makes a big […]

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Robert Frost Revisited

I am not much of a poetry person, to my chagrin–I’ve made stabs at Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red and Adrienne Rich’s Diving into the Wreck, but somehow I end up feeling impatient and grumpy rather than transported and enlightened. (Do not get me started on Sylvia Plath.) I do make a couple of exceptions, […]

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