Category Archives: Literary criticism

This Week in My Classes: My Waverley Intervention

My sincere thanks to everyone who weighed in, here or on Twitter, with advice about handling the classroom slump brought on by Waverley. Here’s an update on what I decided to do. First of all, I did decide to do something different, rather than just pressing on with my usual strategies. I had to admit to myself […]

Putting the Record Straight: Muriel Spark, Curriculum Vitae

When I’d finished puzzling over A Far Cry From Kensington, I decided I’d had enough Muriel Spark for now. There are just so many other books I really want to read, after all. But then I remembered that I’d picked up a copy of her autobiography, Curriculum Vitae, from the public library’s discard sale (it’s shocking, really, what […]

The Reader as Writer: Giraldi and His Gratuitous Grumblings

I don’t teach creative writing classes or attend MFA workshops or writers’ conferences, so I have no first-hand experience of the lamentable species William Giraldi is so annoyed about in his recent essay at the Los Angeles Review of Books: wannabe writers with “no usable knowledge of literary tradition [who] are mostly mere weekend readers […]

Most Seriously Displeased! Robert Hellenga’s The Sixteen Pleasures

I was very restrained in Hager Books on my recent trip to Vancouver: I picked out a modest two books there. One, Gift from the Sea, I chose because I’d heard so much about it. The other, Robert Hellenga’s The Sixteen Pleasures, I chose for the opposite reason: I’d never heard of it at all! That may seem […]

Recent Reading Round-Up

It’s not that I haven’t read anything except Gift From the Sea recently, though you might think so from the dearth of book blogging going on over here. If you peer at the summer reading tally on the right, you’ll see a few more titles on either side  — but I haven’t written them up! Distraction, […]

“The value of appreciation” — Harrison Solow, Felicity & Barbara Pym

I missed Barbara Pym Reading Week by just a bit. I have been keen to read more Pym and serendipitously picked up a couple of Pym’s novels at a book sale just in time for it (The Sweet Dove Died and A Few Green Leaves). And I ordered Harrison Solow’s Felicity & Barbara Pym, which arrived on […]

New Reviews and “Right” Reviewers

Launch day never comes but what I am surprised at what we’ve pulled off, thanks to the talent, perseverance, and generosity of our contributors and the diligence, enthusiasm, and contributions of our editors! Our May issue seems to me to exemplify what we want Open Letters to be. It covers a wide range of material — […]

Diana Athill, Stet: On Angela Thirkell, Virginia Woolf, and the Embarrassment of Caste

This month’s reading for the Slaves of Golconda group was Diana Athill’s briskly evocative memoir Stet, about her decades-long career in publishing. Other folks have been putting up their smart and detailed posts, and you should hop on over and read them if you haven’t visited already. Partly because I’m tired and busy, and partly because […]

Latter-Day Dorotheas? Renunciation in Trollope and Tyler

From the Novel Readings archives (originally posted June 15, 2007) When I decided to take a break from more “serious” reading with Joanna Trollope’s A Village Affair, I wasn’t really expecting the novel to reach towards the serious itself. I had read it before, but what I had retained was admiration for the clarity with which […]

This Week in My Classes: Feminism and Fatality

This week in my section of Intro to Literature we’re starting a unit organized around women writers and feminism. We’re starting this week with some poetry — Adrienne Rich’s “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” and “Diving Into the Wreck,” Margaret Atwood’s “You fit into me,” Marge Piercy’s “The Secretary Chant,” and Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy.” Next we’re working […]

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