Essays In Criticism

Essays In Criticism-90
There are lines in here that are some of the best descriptions I’ve ever read, casually uttered, as if Saunders could just toss them off before breakfast, which he probably could, and probably does.

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Another biography of Bellow, another excuse for all the East Coast magazines to pontificate on the most laureled man in American letters.

Yet, Louis Menand’s piece in The New Yorker is essential for its crisp, short sentences and his incidental insight.

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.

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.

What a magnificent thing to say about another human being. They were deliberately expensive—drawing on a subconscious premium we place on the American lifestyle pre-Civil Rights—and of course, save Addy, all the American Girls were white. The slim book that introduces her, , tells the story of a slave owner forcing a worm into the mouth of his property, that dark-skinned and adorable American girl.

I will never think about power or gentleness in the same way again. With a deadly calm and phenomenal focus, Brit Bennett’s piece turns over the weight of this shifty juxtaposition—the black doll’s tragedy as a source of joy.

Read the first two paragraphs and you’ll know that Bennett, a wholly unprecious but fundamentally literary writer, is one of the most exciting writers around.

“There is no good answer to being a woman; the art may instead lie in how we refuse the question,” writes Rebecca Solnit, neatly packaging a manifesto’s worth of logic into 20 words.


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