Franco Moretti, Far Country: Scenes from American Culture

Far Country: Scenes from American Culture by Franco Moretti My rating: 2 of 5 stars This short book is a selection of lectures from a course in literary history that Franco Moretti, now retired, used to teach at Stanford University. Moretti is best known for advocating computational approaches to the humanities—for his paradigm of "distant … Continue reading Franco Moretti, Far Country: Scenes from American Culture

Erich Auerbach, Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays

Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays by Erich Auerbach My rating: 5 of 5 stars [Elsewhere in the literary blogosphere—do people still say "blogosphere"?—Tom at Wuthering Expectations has wrapped up an informative and fun reading of Erich Auerbach's Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. This book was important to me at a phase in … Continue reading Erich Auerbach, Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays

Juliana Spahr, Du Bois’s Telegram: Literary Resistance and State Containment

Du Bois's Telegram: Literary Resistance and State Containment by Juliana Spahr The first thing to be said about this book is that it is brave. Poet and critic Juliana Spahr does not make her startling argument in general, nor does she make it in unreadably dense jargon that could only be followed by academic insiders. … Continue reading Juliana Spahr, Du Bois’s Telegram: Literary Resistance and State Containment

Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction

Literary Theory: An Introduction by Terry Eagleton My rating: 3 of 5 stars Strange the books one fails to read. The very fact that you are supposed to have read certain books makes you feel like you have already read them long before you read them, so you do not in fact ever read them. … Continue reading Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction

Samuel Johnson, Selected Essays

Selected Essays by Samuel Johnson My rating: 4 of 5 stars This Penguin Classics collection of essays by the great English critic and moralist Samuel Johnson is devoted largely to his periodical writing. In its introduction, the editor David Womersley notes that Johnson was known only (if at all) as an editor, lexicographer, and occasional … Continue reading Samuel Johnson, Selected Essays

Against Celebration: Bloomsday vs. Dallowayday

Two years ago, Elaine Showalter suggested that we balance Bloomsday (June 16, the day whereon Joyce's Ulysses is set) with Dallowayday: Like Joyce’s Ulysses, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway is set in a single city on a single day: London on 13 June 1923. But while Bloomsday on 16 June is the occasion of riotous celebrations … Continue reading Against Celebration: Bloomsday vs. Dallowayday

Albert Murray, The Hero and the Blues

The Hero And the Blues by Albert Murray My rating: 5 of 5 stars Albert Murray is, as the fashion journalists say, having a moment. His collected non-fiction and fiction/poetry have now been canonized by the Library of America (in volumes published in 2016 and 2018, respectively) and his insights on race, American identity, music, … Continue reading Albert Murray, The Hero and the Blues

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

Claudia Rankine, Citizen

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine My rating: 3 of 5 stars Citizen is a prose-poetry compendium of racial microaggressions aimed at a poetic speaker who nevertheless speaks in the second person, and who fills the middle of her book with museum pieces on the macroaggressions of police brutality (and behind them lynching and … Continue reading Claudia Rankine, Citizen

Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo My rating: 5 of 5 stars It sometimes seems as if great novels—where "great" implies success at the historico-political task of summing an epoch or capturing a society in fiction—almost have to be long. You know the list: Bleak House, War and Peace, Middlemarch, The Magic Mountain, Underworld, etc. But … Continue reading Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo