Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson My rating: 2 of 5 stars This theory-inflected memoir of "(queer) family making," to quote the jacket copy, so assiduously defends itself that there is little point formally reviewing it. There is even a little parable early in the book from a graduate seminar Nelson once attended that guides you … Continue reading Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

On the Road by Jack Kerouac My rating: 3 of 5 stars You will say, "You should have read this book when you were sixteen!" Reader, I wouldn't have liked it. My spell with the counterculture was tantalizing but brief, consisting mainly of Grant Morrison comics and a small short-lived occult shop on Pittsburgh's South … Continue reading Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Sigrid Nunez, Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag

Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag by Sigrid Nunez My rating: 4 of 5 stars I'll admit to a prurient interest in Sontagiana. I've always liked Sontag—well, always is a Sontag-like exaggeration, but I do believe I bought a '60s paperback of Against Interpretation, with her face in close-up on the cover, when I … Continue reading Sigrid Nunez, Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass My rating: 5 of 5 stars Revisiting this for the American literature survey I'm teaching; it's been about a decade. Upon rereading, what stands out is Douglass's careful attention to the social dimension of slave resistance, a theme of the book that can be overshadowed … Continue reading Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life

Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs My rating: 5 of 5 stars Reviewing or criticizing non-fictional documents of an experience such as slavery seems like a category mistake. But in the case of this book, the moral sense as it encounters a testament to suffering does not come into conflict … Continue reading Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl